It looks like the North Crawford eighth graders may be making a trip to Washington D.C. this spring, following a presentation to the school board by teachers Lori Fox-Gillespie and Jessica Gander.
The two middle school teachers pitched the board on the virtues of the idea at a school board meeting last Thursday. The teachers envisioned making the trip to Washington D.C. an ongoing opportunity for eighth graders every spring in the future.
Fox-Gillespie told the board the idea for the trip came up at a faculty team meeting. It was noted that Prairie du Chien and DeSoto both do eighth grade trips regularly.
Gander and Fox-Gillespie told the board they had been working on details of the trip with a company called Explore America First (EAF). This company has been doing trips with schools for 50 years.
Fox-Gillespie said she was very comfortable working with the EAF representative on details of the trip. She said the company had stopped using buses and now flew by commercial airlines to save on travel time.
“We would leave on Monday, May 15 and arrive in D.C. hitting the ground running,” Fox-Gillespie told the board.
In addition to seeing a museum and other sites in the nation’s capital, the group would take a bus trip to Gettysburg on one day. The plan would have the group return late Thursday, May 18 and be excused from school on Friday.
The cost of the trip would be $1,549 for each student. This would cover airfare, lodging and some meals, as well as a tour guide, security guard and bus transportation as needed.
There was some concern over how the cost would impact students and their families, as the trip would be self-funded at no expense to the district.
North Crawford District Administrator Brandon Munson worried that offering the opportunity might be creating a gap between the haves and have-nots.
“Those who can will and those who can’t won’t,” Munson said.
Fox-Gillespie said she and others were committed “to working hard to make sure everybody goes.”
A variety of creative fundraising is being considered and within families there could be plans to have presents and holiday giving become contributions toward the trip. Fox-Gillespie also indicated that the EAF, the company providing the trip, offered some financing options for families.
During the discussion, Munson, Fox-Gillespie and others acknowledged the opportunity and experience the trip would offer the students. They noted some of those students had never left Crawford County.
After hearing the presentation, board member Judy Powell moved to approve allowing the eighth grade trip to Washington D.C. and the motion was seconded by Terry O’Donnell. The four board members present passed the motion.
In addition to Powell and O’Donnell, Wade Dull and Aaron Fortney attended the meeting last Thursday. Board president Mary Kuhn and members Jim Dworschack and Jesse Swenson were absent.
Earlier in the meeting, the board received an update on the proposed energy savings projects from UNESCO’s Ron Harrison, the coordinator for the various projects.
Harrison told the board that through meeting with the building and grounds committee, as well as talks with the district’s director of maintenance Harry Heisz and district administrator Brandon Munson, the projects involved in the proposal are taking their final form.
The lead project in the proposal is converting almost all of the exterior and interior lighting at the school to new energy efficient LED lighting. That project is expected to cost about $340,000. However, Harrison pointed out the project used figures for an option replacing all fixtures and some may in fact be retrofit as outlined in another option. The consultant explained it was always better to use the higher figure to be able to cover the costs and then go down from that number when less expensive options work out.
The district expects to save $18,000 to $20,000 annually in electric costs and could get the payback for the whole LED lighting installation in as little as 14 years.
Another major part of the proposal is upgrading the capacity of the district’s backup generator. The current generator can power emergency lighting in the building during a power outage, but not much more. The upgraded generator would be able to power everything in school during a power outage with the exception of the air conditioning system. The diesel generator will cost $137,000.
Another major project contained in the proposal is the replacement of most of the building’s exterior doors. They are showing their age of 25 years now with some rust appearing particularly at the bottom of the frames. The door replacement cost is $128,000.
In addition to replacing doors, this project seeks to redesign the school’s two main entrances, located at the middle/high school and at the elementary school. The $54,000 entrance redesign is aimed at making the school more secure. Together the doors and entrance redesign will cost $182,000.
Another project aimed at energy savings will be the installation of variable speed drives and controls in the building’s HVAC system. The changes will cost $65,000 but the energy savings should offset the cost in the long run.
Other projects included in the proposal are refurbishing and replacing lockers in the locker rooms and possibly the high school hallways, sealing the building envelope, equipping the IT room with a stand-alone air conditioning system, upgrading security cameras in the building and updating the clock and PA system. Another project will be to install a new air handler at the bus garage.
Altogether the proposal has a budget of $998,009 for all of the projects involved. This cost includes a contingency fund to cover unforeseen costs and an expected $3,000 payment to PMA, the district’s financial advisor for assistance with the proposal.
With the total cost being under $1 million and the district not holding any outstanding long-term debt, the proposal will not need a 30-day posting, Harrison told the board.
The proposed spending will not require a referendum. However, the district administrator and others are committed to explaining the spending in detail to voters.
The board can approve the finalized project at the September 15 school board meeting and this would allow time for the tax levy to be set for approval in October.
Harrison told the board that calculations done by UNESCO indicate there could be .11 increase to the mil rate this year from the project. However, increased state revenue this year might offset even that increase.
Terry O’Donnell moved to approve proceeding with the proposal and Aaron Fortney seconded the motion. The board unanimously approved the proposal 4-0 on a roll call vote as it was presented. This set the stage for approval of the finalized proposal and financing of it at the September 15 school board meeting.
North Crawford will contact the two local financial institutions, Royal Bank and Peoples State Bank to get borrowing terms for the money.
The meeting began with a presentation by retired teacher Lynn Harden on the status of the North Crawford Education Foundation.
Harden, a member of that group’s advisory board, was quick to point out that the North Crawford Education Foundation was not affiliated with the North Crawford School District. The Foundation is affiliated with the Community Foundation of Southern Wisconsin, which provides service to hosts of charitable foundations and funds.
The Community Foundation’s Barb Daus explained her organization helps groups like the North Crawford Education Foundation raise money to build a fund that can provide endowments from the interest received.
At North Crawford, a major emphasis would be creating more scholarships for graduates, while another goal would be increasing educational opportunities for students.
The group is currently in the process of raising funds and is seeking $1,000 donations from ‘charter members.’ They are also seeking donations in smaller amounts.
Later in the meeting, the board heard a plan to transfer the current $63,000 in scholarship funds that exists at the school to the control of the North Crawford Education Foundation.
However, a couple of major scholarship contributors said that at least initially they would like to keep their funds separate from the foundation. Don and Andrea Sannes decided to keep the Dr. Sannes scholarships under their control initially. Joni Peterson also indicated she would initially like to keep control and the selection of recipients of the Bullet Bob Peterson Scholarships. Also Lowry funds, which supplied money for school forestry projects, was going to stay separate for the foundation since it was not intended to be used for scholarships. Subtracting those three sources from the funds meant $45,647 would be transferred to the foundation.
The foundation hopes to achieve interest rates near four percent compared to the .25 percent interest the money was earning through the district account.
Fortney moved to transfer the funds to the foundation and Powell seconded that motion. It was approved by the board.
In other business, the North Crawford School Board:
• approved increasing pay for bus drivers on extracurricular routes to be more in line with the pay for regular routes, which is about $15 per hour
• approved recognizing years of service in determine pay for long-term substitute drivers, as is the case for the contracted drivers
• accepted the resignation of Brandon Munson as the Summer Rec Baseball/Softball Coordinator
• accepted the resignation of Haley Boland as paraprofessional at the school
• agreed to switch Amanda Ziemer from assistant to head coach of the volleyball team, while making Coach Wettstein, who had served as the head coach, the assistant coach
• granted Lori Fox-Gillespie a leave of absence to facilitate a visit to Europe to see her daughter, who is studying abroad
• approved Beau Blaha as a fifth and sixth grade football coach and Matt Friar as middle school football coach
• approved Angel Olson as the middle school volleyball coach
• approved the school fees for 2016-17 with no changes except for the changes to lunch fees approved earlier
• approved handbooks for the upcoming school year with some minor changes
After meeting in closed session to discuss the disposition of school district-owned property, the board reconvened in open session and agreed to deed three acres owned in Soldiers Grove to Guy Nelson. Nelson has recently purchased the adjoining former school building from the Methodist Church.