School Board accepts literacy plan, bids for outdoor signage and architect services, and more

Jess Bengtson
Crookston Times

    Crookston School Board recently approved the district’s literacy plan, accepted bids for outdoor signage for the high school plus to enter into a contract for architect services with Zerr Berg Architects of Fargo for plans for a new track and football field, and heard from Food Services Director Anna Brekken on adult meal pricing and food plans for the 2021-2022 school year.

    Here’s a recap of what was discussed at their last meeting:

LITERACY PLAN

    The local literacy plan for 2021-2022 includes the primary goal of “Reading Well by Third (3rd) Grade” and Superintendent Jeremy Olson said the goal is based on research and amount of time it takes to remediate reading - which can be quite extensive. Olson added that state revenue is based by performance and if students do better in third grade reading that equates to more dollars coming into the district.

    The plan is designed to inform the community of Crookston about the district’s work and they’ll review it each year for continued school improvement so they can best meet the needs of all students. The document includes the district’s literacy goals, assessment tools and processes, parent communication and support, instructional and intervention supports, professional development, technology and data submission.

    The 20-page document outlines each category and is said to be “always a work in progress” as they continually reflect on “best practices” in literary development and to “find more effective ways to ensure all our students are proficient in reading by the end of third grade.” The Literacy Plan Committee consisted of teachers in grades kindergarten through sixth, Title 1 teacher and coordinator, Special Education director and assessment coordinator, principals of Washington and Highland Elementary and Superintendent Olson. The plan is also posted on their website crooks ton.k12.mn.us

    School Board member Dave Davidson asked how “realistic” it was to have everyone reading by third grade and was answered by Olson that the levels are “daunting” but “if students are not reading by third grade it’s more of an intervention plan.”

    When asked about students with different reading and math levels, Olson added that there are different vantage points and the district tries to identify and put students in the right place with Title services in mind if needed.

OUTDOOR SIGNAGE AND ARCHITECT SERVICES

    The district has been working with Archetype of Minneapolis on outdoor signage for the high school and after the school board made it clear they want to see the signs “clearly” at night plus show colored lights during the day, the school board approved the “B2” plan that includes a mascot sign as well.

    The main entrance will show “Home of the Pirates” with a mascot sign with veneer to make the sign look blue during the day and shine white at night. When asked about the timeline after the board approved, Olson said he will push for the start of the school year but will let the board know for sure.

    On the football field/track front, the board accepted a bid to work with Zerr Berg Architects of Fargo for architect services and to come up with a rendering of the proposed track and field. School board chair Frank Fee said he, Olson and board member Tim Dufault talked with both ICON of Grand Forks, who worked on the new bus garage and Zerr Berg and Dufault ultimately felt the experience of Zerr Berg was the “tipping point” after seeing what they did for Moorhead, Minnesota’s high school. Fee also noted that he received an email from a Grove Mechanical employee who had interned with Zerr Berg and said he’d go with him “in a heartbeat.”

    Zerr Berg’s original cost consideration for the bid, Olson said, was at 7% but had called to change it to 6%.

    “Given the actual experience building a project with a like size and such, and having a bit of a stronger background and having successfully done that in several school districts, I believe Zerr Berg is the stronger architect in this case,” Olson explained.  

2021-2022 FOOD SERVICES

    After the USDA approved free meals for students for the 2021-2022 school year, Food Services Director Anna Brekken told the school board they’re running into an “issue” with the price of adult meals as the federal minimum is $4.35 and the state does a match for adult meal reimbursement which they anticipate as closer to $4.50 meaning the district will have increase their adult meal prices first at the beginning of the school year and then again with another increase in January 2022. Superintendent Olson noted that timing was an issue and whatever minimum the district has to access state and federal dollars is what they have to consider. Brekken echoed Olson saying they can’t charge an adult less than what the reimbursement amount was which led the school board to approve the increase.

    The district also switched food service companies and is in the process of switching point-of-sale (POS) companies meaning the district will be able to do online free and reduced meals applications which they need for compensatory revenue. Brekken said she hopes the online application will be available by August 1 so families can go online and submit which then travels to her inbox hopefully making it easier than a paper copy.

    Brekken pleaded that it was still important for families to submit a free and reduced meals application as that helps the district’s compensation.

    “If every family could fill it out whether or not they think they qualify it would help,” she explained.

    “We lost $250,000 last year even after doing a major push,” added Olson. “We need to try to think creatively; this is major dollars and this is not a single local dollar, not a Crookston dollar, it’s dollars from the state that come to us.”

    Board members asked if there was a possibility for incentives like free admission to activities or free gift cards, and Brekken and Olson said they will look into what would be allowed. Olson also thanked teachers for assisting in connecting with families to help get the applications filled out.

    Brekken added that the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable program was also approved for the 2021-2022 school year for kindergartners and preschoolers which provides fresh produce options and education to students.