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Crookston Times - Crookston, MN
  • School board OKs abatements requested by city; Bakken abstains

  • Board also discusses music trip eligibility policy, storm day activity cancellation policy.
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  •     Numerous times in recent years, the Crookston School Board has approved the school district's share of tax abatements over two years that are part of the City of Crookston's housing incentive package.
        But as part of the new Crookston Homestead Act, the abatements on 16 residential lots along the east side of Barrette Street could remain in place for as long as 15 years. Despite the longer commitment, school board members approved the district's portion of the abatements, although technically the vote wasn't unanimous because Keith Bakken abstained after expressing some concern about the length of the abatements.
        "You abstain? (Vote) yes or no. Why would you abstain?" board chair Frank Fee asked Bakken. "Are you going to buy a lot over there?"
        Bakken said he wasn't buying a lot. "An abstention is same as a no," he told Fee.
    Supporting the community
        Prior to the vote, Superintendent Chris Bates recommended board approval of the abatement. "It's hard for the school to stand in the way of our community making progress," he said.  "It's a relatively short-term, minimum effect on the district that in return is good for the community and school district over the long term."
        Fee acknowledged that the longer abatement means the district would lose more tax revenue than with the two-year housing incentive abatement. "But it's not like we're getting any revenue from those lots now; if they don't develop them, we'll never realize anything," he said. "Hopefully we'll get some families to build some houses and their children will attend our schools."
       The Polk County board will also be asked to approve the abatements.
    Music trip policy
        The board tabled a vote on a revised CHS Florida music trip eligibility policy, written by board member Dave Davidson under the direction CHS Music Department staff, so the board's Policy Committee can take a more detailed look at it.
        The modified policy puts official language to paper regarding academic performance and behavior, and how both relate to a choir, band or orchestra student being able to make the trip. Davidson used the example of a senior music student still potentially being haunted by a failing grade earned as a freshman, even if the failing grade had eventually been rectified and the senior is on track to graduate.
        Asked by Fee if the eligibility policy demands that a failing grade from four years ago still impact's a student's eligibility, Bates said it doesn't, "but it doesn't say it doesn't in the current policy."
        CHS Principal Lon Jorgenson said he believes that, currently, 158 of the 160 students set to travel to Florida this spring are academically eligible, and the two ineligible students are working to become eligible.
    Page 2 of 2 -     Davidson said he's a fan of the policy. "It gives kids an incentive to stay on track and do the right thing," he said.
    Activities policy on storm days
        As he has in the past in the wake of a school day being cancelled by a winter storm, Fee reiterated his desire for the board to approve a written policy that cancels school activities after school and in the evening when school is cancelled due to weather. The policy also needs to address, either permitting it or prohibiting it, teams getting together to practice in the event their games are cancelled, Fee said.
        Bates agreed with Fee that approving an official policy would be wise. He estimated that 85 percent of other school districts in the region cancel school activities on days that school is cancelled, "but that virtually none of them have a policy in writing."
        When school was cancelled on Monday, the Pirate girls' varsity hockey team still traveled to East Grand Forks for a Section 8A playoff game, long after the Sunday storm had subsided. Fee said it was his understanding that the outright cancellation of the game, since it was a post-season game, was not up to the school district, "but we reserved the right to not send our students there."
        It's all about clearing up confusion, Bates said.
        "I'm not sure what we gain by not having a policy in writing," he said.
       
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