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River Ridge works on studies
Surveys of buildings to be done sometime in March
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    Studying is one of the important things a student can do in school. For the River Ridge School District, studying is important as well, as the district is researching two projects to see the best way to operate.

    Today (Thursday) representatives from ADG will be inspecting both the elementary/high school building in Patch Grove and the middle school building in Bloomington, checking the utility infrastructure of both facilities as the district continues looking at what is the best option for housing students.

    At the beginning of the school year, the district began to look at the benefits and drawbacks of whether the district retained its current two-facility setup, or if it would consolidate all operations to one building, likely the Patch Grove building since it is greater in size. Initial estimates had that the district would save money having all staff and students under one roof, which would eliminate some staff having to drive between the two schools, and even eliminate two bus routes needed now.

    Consolidation would likely mean an addition needed.

    District Administrator Lee Pritzl said he hoped the study of the facilities would be completed sometime in March.

   In addition to the building study, the district has also created a task force  looking into staff insurance options for the future. This past year the district, which has a self-funded plan, increased the deductible of the district’s policy, but reduced the employee-paid portion of the premium to lower the overall cost to the district. During that discussion leading up to that change, the school board had discussed adding a health reimbursement account program, which would increase the deductible, but have a portion of that deductible paid for by the district. That idea was ultimately tabled for the higher deductible/lower premium idea because there was not enough time to set up the HRA plan before the new coverage term.

    For Pritzl, the new task force, which has board members, administrators, and teaching and support staff, the goal will be to save the district money while providing coverage. “I think we owe it to see if we can do something cheaper,” Pritzl stated. “We’re basically going to look at all of our insurance  coverage.” He added that the district will also look at whether to remain a self-funded plan, or do something else, such as join the state-run insurance program.

   The task force meets on Jan. 14 to discuss the current insurance plan, and Pritzl said that he hopes that their work will be done before June.

   During their last meeting of the year, the school board also heard a presentation of the proposed staff evaluation model, falling in line with the state model. Pritzl noted that the new evaluations will be much more interactive than the previous setup. While the staff review and evaluation continues, Pritzl said that the new model is more reflective, having staff review what worked and what didn’t.

   “It’s more of a staff development’s really a growth tool,” Pritzl said of the program. He said with the review of scores and teaching programs, it will mean changes can be made, and ultimately lead to students learning more in the classroom.

   At the end of that December meeting, the board also preliminarily approved two-year contracts for three administrative staff. The contracts for elementary/high school principal, business manager, and school psychologist position.

   The board also approved a new Spanish club for the school. Pritzl said that the new club will be where students can practice in and out of school, and is open to all, not just those in a foreign-language class.

   As for other district business, Pritzl said that events lost due to the last two days lost before winter break are being rescheduled. “We should be able to come out with a new calendar soon,” Pritzl said.