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USC board backs Bricelyn Jewish school

By Staff | Jun 21, 2010

Jerry Jensen

The “i’s and t’s” are close to being dotted and crossed so a school for at-risk Jewish teen girls can open this year in Bricelyn.

United South Central School Board members were in full agreement on approving contracts for educational programming and online courses to Minnesota Girls Academy.

However, board chair Christie Wetzel suggested no action be taken Tuesday night until the school’s lawyers revise language in the contracts.

“I’ve been told the changes are minor. Hopefully, we can start bringing in students by fall,” says Kimberly Testa, director of the school.

The board tabled a vote on the contracts and will hold a special meeting once the changes have been made.

Superintendent Jerry Jensen says a local school district was helpful in putting together the agreements.

Jensen turned to Blue Earth Area School District and borrowed the contract they had with YSI Academy in Elmore.

“They have a real thorough agreement and a lot of the points made sense for our situation,” he says.

Board member Chris Olson asked Testa if the USC District had any staffing or financial obligations to the Bricelyn academy.

Testa reassured the board that any costs incurred would be reimbursed.

“The academy doesn’t want to be a burden on the district. In working with them I’ve gotten the impression their intent is not to get something for nothing,” says Testa.

After the board has given its OK, the next step for academy officials would be to submit a work plan to the state’s departments of education and human services for approval.

It’s anticipated the school would start with an enrollment of six students, most being from the EastCoast.

The board again addressed the idea of leasing to purchase new buses.

Jensen has scaled back his initial proposal to buy eight buses at an estimated cost of $800,000.

Jensen says after taking a closer look at the district’s buses he determined that most of them were in good condition.

“I’m also concerned about committing the district to a lease payment for the next six years,” he says.

Wetzel presented a cost analysis comparing USC with two districts leasing buses.

In 2007-08, it cost USC $2.20 per mile to operate a bus. New Ulm, which has about the same amount of bus route mileage, paid $2.66 per mile.

Waseca has more than half the route mileage of USC, yet pays $5.71 per mile to operate a bus.

“It is always cheaper for a school district to own their fleet,” says Wetzel.

Board member Kathy Krebsbach also did some research.

Krebsbach found that of the $130,000 spent on maintenance of buses, $54,000 was due to the age of the vehicle.

Krebsbach says people she has talked to do not think the district should buy eight buses.

“We need to look at this logically, rather than having a knee-jerk reaction and replacing eight buses,” she says.

The district has already ordered a new bus for the upcoming school year.

The board approved a motion to purchase two buses. Also, the district will try to sell a bus that isn’t being used any longer.