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School board approves $150,000 to update curriculum

The Lake Superior School District board approved $150,000 to be spent on updating the curriculum at its meeting Tuesday.

After deficit spending began in 2012, the school district has had to make sacrifices and put some purchases on the back burner until the district was in good financial standing again. One of those sacrifices made was updating the curriculum, but this year, thanks to the windfall from county land sales, the district can afford the update.

"We've been 'bandaiding' our curriculum together for a long time," said board member Dwight Moe. "We don't when we'll get another windfall like this from county land sales, so I think we should do it while we can."

LSSD received $251,354.17 from Lake County and $74,009.62 from St. Louis County for a total of $325,363.79 off of land sales from 2014. With this money, as well as the levy raise the School Board approved in December, the district is expected to have a positive general fund balance for the first time since 2011.

Of the $150,000 that was approved to update the curriculum, $100,000 of it will go toward updating the entire elementary reading and language arts program, which hasn't had any updates for nearly eight years and currently includes some books that are over 25 years old. The remaining $50,000 will go toward updating the seventh grade through 12th grade curriculum in all subjects.

Improving Lynch Field

Also at the meeting Tuesday, the School Board approved $10,000 to do work on the Lynch Field 1, a baseball field in Silver Bay. The project includes replacing the fencing along the first and third baselines as well as leaving a space for the players to exit the dugout and raising the height of the backstop. The upgrades to the field also include adding a drainage ditch, so the field can be used in the spring.

"We're trying to do it as cheap as possible and we'll reuse as many posts as possible," said Mike Guzzo, City of Silver Bay Recreation director. "The city is also willing to do a lot of work to save (the district) some money."

According to Guzzo, Lynch Field 2 had some work done in 2006 and the drainage added to that field is still holding up and making it usable more times out of the year than the other field. The $10,000 to improve the field was approved unanimously by the board.

Minnehaha playground issues

Minnehaha Elementary special education teacher Sarah Haavisto and PTA president Jenny Falk gave a presentation to the School Board about the current issues facing the Minnehaha playground. According to Falk, the only equipment on the playground that is up to code is the colorful jungle gym and the handicap swings, but not the bars they are attached to.

"Everything that's not up to code has to be removed," Falk said.

The Minnehaha PTA asked the district to pay to have the old equipment removed and the surface of the playground replaced. Currently, the surface of the playground is rubber chips, which makes it impossible for wheelchairs to navigate and requiring handicap students to have extra help to enjoy the playground with their peers, Haavisto said.

"Every year we ask parents want they want for the kids, and every year they say that they just want their kids to make friends," Haavisto said. "The best way to do that is on the playground and right now that's very difficult."

The new surface being proposed is a rubber tiling system that would allow wheelchairs to roll throughout the playground as well as make it easier for those with walkers to navigate the area. The PTA is proposing that if the district will pay to remove the outdated equipment and resurface the playground, they will cover the cost of replacing the equipment by fundraising and applying for grants.

"I want to thank (Sarah and Jenny) and the PTA for your efforts. I personally think something has be be done," said board member Tom Burns. "It's just a matter of getting estimates of the cost to replace it."

Adelle Whitefoot

Adelle Whitefoot is a Michigan native who moved to Minnesota in Sept. 2014 when she started as a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle. She graduated from Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Mich., in 2012 with a bachelor's in English writing and has been a professional photographer since 2011. Whitefoot is the night general assignments reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. 

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