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Is SPEC moving out of W’bago?

By Staff | Feb 25, 2018

During their regular meeting, United South Central’s School Board learned their students who are participating in the Southern Plains Education Cooperative may be moving to new facilities.

As the board went through their agenda, information on facility needs and recommendations for the Southern Plains Educational Cooperative (SPEC) was presented.

The SPEC’s current facility is located in Winnebago at its former school. And, according to information from SPEC, those facilities were never meant to be permanent.

“In the spring of 2015 all of the programs were moved into the Winnebago School building which had recently been closed by the Blue Earth Area School District. At that time, it was very clear by all parties that this was a temporary solution,” reads the information in the School Board’s packet. “The Blue Earth Area District acknowledged that although the Winnebago building had been maintained to provide an adequate learning environment, there were significant deferred maintenance concerns.”

Deferred maintenance concerns that could cost approximately $5 million to repair. Those repairs would have included new heating and ventilation, tuck pointing to address moisture and mold issues, new windows that are currently inefficient as far as energy savings, a backup in a sanitary sewer line that causes sewage backup in a classroom, and electrical issues regarding fuses being blown regularly. Issues with doors, roofing, flooding, and a lack of video camera monitoring were also addressed.

And the cost to conduct repairs at this point have come out of the SPEC fund balance, which has been depleted significantly. SPEC board members say the future costs will need to be billed to the member districts and come from their general funds.

The SPEC board, consisting of Jesse Haugh from Blue Earth Area, Julie Laue of Fairmont Area, Bryan Nowicki from Granada-Huntley-East-Chain, Wendi Russenberger of Martin County West, Mike Pfeil of Truman and Mike Schrader of USC, considered many options during their discussions regarding moving locations.

Those options were considered and minimized down to three viable choices including renovating the Lincoln Building in Fairmont without any additions, renovating Lincoln with additions, and constructing a new building altogether, which was eliminated due to high costs.

The facilities committee, consisting of SPEC?board members, stated the most economical option that meets the needs of all of the students services within the SPEC programs is to purchase the Fairmont building, renovate it, and create an addition of approximately four classrooms, with additional space for Southern Plains offices and itinerant staff.

The USC?School Board did not need to take action on the matter, but rather discussed how it would affect USC?students.

“The only thing that would really impact them, is a longer drive to their classrooms,” said Mike Schrader, who is also on the SPEC board.

Stacy Whiteside, USC’s financial director, also informed the board that mileage was 100 percent reimbursed, so it would not be a loss to the school.

Also during their meeting, School Board members heard from first-year teachers and acclimated teachers regarding their experience in the teacher mentoring program.

All of the feedback the board received was positive.

“I am greatful for the existence of this program, especially with being in an unfamiliar area, it has been super helpful,” said one first-year teacher.

“I have taught for many years, but it is still different. I’m in a different school, in a different district, teaching a different grade level. It has been so beneficial to have someone, specifically, I can turn to and ask questions,” another mentee shared.

Mentors in the program chimed in, too.

“We have some great new staff here and I am very proud of them,” said a USC teacher who volunteered to be a mentor to one of the new teachers. “It is a great program for people coming into our district.”

During their meeting, the USC?School Board also:

Reviewed both the revised 2017-18 General Fund budget as well as the initial 2018-19 budget based on preliminary assumptions. Whitehead informed the board the preliminary working budget for the next school year still has multiple unknown variables before the final budget is set. Those variables include title allocation, State Aid formula changes, Special Ed aid, and MA IEP funds.

Considered and carried out a motion to deem their outdated drumline equipment as surplus property.

Approved the final 2017-18 seniority list.

Authorized Board Policy 5250, outlining violence prevention.