Fee: If a shooter was in the school, some people wouldn’t even know it

    As the 2018-19 Crookston School District budget continues to take shape, one project that looks like a slam dunk for inclusion is an upgrade in the intercom/PA/communication system at Crookston High School, which is apparently not operating as it should, or at full capacity.

    At a board working session to discuss some projects to be included in the budget, the condition of CHS’s current intercom/PA system came to light, with Information Technology Director Kevin Weber saying service to portions of the high school building’s north end is “spotty.”

    Board Chair Frank Fee isn’t happy about it.

    “It’s unconscionable, to have parts of the high school (with no intercom/PA service),” Fee said. “You go into lockdown and people don’t know what’s going on. If we had a shooter, some people wouldn’t know.”

    School safety funds from the Minnesota Legislature could help with the cost, Business Manager Laura Lyczewski said. As for those costs, she put some general numbers together for fixes in the gymnasium, the commons, and the rest of the building, which she “guesstimated” would cost $225,000, but Weber said he’d have more detailed information this week when someone comes to assess the condition of the overall system. If replacing all of the speakers could be avoided, Weber said that would significantly reduce the cost.

    Superintendent Chris Bates suggested that it might be best to consider a project that fixes the entire high school building’s intercom/PA system, instead of repairs limited to only certain parts of the building done over multiple years. “It’s like patching your roof, you probably end up paying more in the end,” Bates said.

    If the funding was available, Weber said the best window of time to get the work done would probably be over the 2018-19 holiday break, when kids and staff aren’t in the building.

    Fee said detailed numbers and a specific project proposal need to be put together sooner rather than later, so that if funding is made available in St. Paul, Crookston’s project is ready to go. “We need to find out if this qualifies, and then get our share,” Fee said.

    Bates also noted that some funds remain from a previous voter-approved levy specifically targeted toward maintenance and repair projects at the three public school buildings. Lyczewski said that could be a possible funding source as well.

Other investments

    The 2018-19 budget will likely include funding for other projects and investments, including:

    • $220,000 for two new, 83-passenger school buses, which would replace two that would be retired from the 18-bus fleet. Around $5,000 extra will be paid for each bus for specific suspensions that will allow them to fit into the bus garage’s shop for washing and repairs, Buildings, Grounds and Maintenance Supervisor Rick Niemela said.

    • Approximately $150,000 for annual technology investments, for some new virtual servers, new ChromeBooks, another Chromebook cart at Highland School, and SmartBoards for all three schools.

    • $100,000 in annual curriculum investments

    • Repairs to the sidewalk at the main, west entrance to CHS: It’s still the original sidewalk and is home to significant cracks and uneven areas that allow water to pond, Niemela said. Simply filling the cracks with rubber, as has been done up to now, is the cheapest option, at around $2,650. Black-topping it would cost around $18,130, Niemela said, and new concrete would cost around three times as much as blacktop.

    “We need to address this,” board member Dave Davidson said. “This is the front of our high school. This is a place on the district grounds that needs to look good. I hope we don’t low-ball on this.”

    Lyczewski said there is around $374,000 in a long-term maintenance fund that could provide the money for a new sidewalk and entrance area.

    “I agree with Dave; every year we battle this, with people tripping and big cracks,” Fee said. “We’re going to have an accident there someday.”

    Niemela said whatever is decided, the project could be completed over the summer.

    Davidson also said the landscaping on the CHS grounds needs to be enhanced “so it doesn’t look like downtown Beirut.”

    To that, Lyczewski said there is around $6,700 in a grounds improvement reserve account that could be utilized. Davidson said he will look into some options, with Niemela advising him that any landscaping added needs to be low-maintenance so it doesn’t stretch is staff thinner.