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School board contemplates expanded Pre-K program

The Lake Superior School District Board discussed the possible space to house an expanding preschool program in the district during its meeting Tuesday.

Gov. Mark Dayton has pledged to expand access to early learning for all Minnesota 4-year-olds during the next legislative session. During the 2015 session, Dayton proposed investing $343 million in preschool, which would have provided access to free preschool for more than 47,000 children in Minnesota.

"It's something that in some way shape or form will be coming through the legislature this year," superintendent Bill Crandall said.

With space already tight at the Minnehaha Elementary School in Two Harbors, the district must look at alternative places for housing an expanding preschool and Head Start program. Crandall and community education director Chris Langenbrunner said they had looked at trying to use the Tradesmen building across Highway 61 from Sonju to house the program along with some other community partners like the Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency, the Early Child Family Education program, Lake County Development Achievement Center in Knife River and the Two Harbors Area Food Shelf. The Tradesmen building wouldn't work because it is a "clean slate," according to Crandall, and the warehouse would require extensive renovations for to make it appropriate for a preschool program.

"We have a year to find a location and based on our numbers we might be able to make it with a space that we have and we might not," Crandall said.

The community partners also looked at space in downtown Two Harbors, but the space looked at does not meet the size requirements of the preschool program and the district was back at square one. Other options for housing the program include using portable classrooms at the Minnehaha, which would cost the school some playground space.

"Anyone at the Minnehaha knows there are people in closets and former bathrooms," board member Cyndi Ryder said.

Another potential option would be to move the fifth-grade students from the Minnehaha to Two Harbors High School in a worst case scenario. Two Harbors already houses the sixth-grade class. The board asked Crandall if it was even possible to move the fifth-grade class to the high school.

"Technically, we could," Crandall said. "Is it going to be a pretty situation? No."

Crandall and Langenbrunner said they have to wait for the results of the census to come back and for the legislative decisions to be made, but they want to be as prepared as possible prior to any decisions being made.

Also at the school board meeting:

• The Silver Bay Mariners football team was recognized for its Section 5 nine-man championship and run to the state playoffs that ended with a loss to Waubun in late October. William Kelley Schools principal Joe Nicklay said local businesses donated $2,200 to help out with the team's travel costs throughout the playoffs.

• Board member Tom Burns took a few minutes to share his family's experience hosting two Chinese students for several weeks earlier in the school year. He said they really enjoyed having the students in their home and would definitely do it again. The two boys were among 40 Chinese students visiting schools in Proctor, Duluth and Two Harbors. Burns also encouraged other people to volunteer to host foreign students when the opportunity presents itself.

• The board approved $7,384 in annual dues Education Innovation Partners for 2016 dues. EIP is a regional partnership of more than 20 school districts and five community colleges to help bring technology into classrooms. Crandall said EIP brought more than $93,000 into Lake Superior School District over the last year in equipment, including a $30,000 laser engraver for Two Harbors High School.

• The board approved the following grants from Northland Foundation: $500 for a preschool through third grade leadership series and $1,500 for an early childhood community coordinator in Two Harbors.

Jamey Malcomb

Jamey Malcomb has been a reporter for the Pine Journal since October 2018. He previously worked as a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle from 2015-2018. Malcomb is a native of North Carolina and holds a bachelor's degree in English and history from the George Washington University and a master's degree in education from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Malcomb moved to Minnesota in July 2012 and worked as a sports clerk and news assistant at the Duluth News Tribune. 

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