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Increase in funds leads to District 32 successes

English teacher Jesse Carey discusses the fundamentals of robotics during seventh period on Tuesday, Sept. 3 at Blackduck High School. The course is offered to a limited number of students in only one section per semester. Photo by Christen Furlong.

When recalling the different renovations schools have been making in the district recently, Blackduck High School Principal Randy Hansen grew excited as he discussed the changes taking place on campus this year.

“If you were here last year and drove around, you’d see a dramatic change in what has happened at the school on the outside and the inside,” Hansen said. “Because we passed the bond referendum, we’ve been able to do all these things.”

Those changes have included a new multipurpose room floor that will serve as the surface for lunches and sporting events. The hallway outside the main gym was stripped to the bricks and resealed. Without the grout, the tile appeared similar to cobblestones, Hansen said. Over the years, the steady waxing had caused a wax build-up making the floor appear dirty and scuffed.

“It looks like a brand new floor,” Hansen commented.

He said the same thing about the floor in the gymnasium of Blackduck High School.

“Unbelievable maple flooring,” he said, admiring the polished hardwood, which was completely stripped and removed of the excess waxed and refinished. “(The gym) was very dark and dingy before. I wish they had a before and after picture; its just an amazing difference.”

The flooring in the gymnasium wasn’t the only aspect of the room’s refurbishment. The school also purchased a new section of bleachers for the right wall as well as new volleyball poles for gym classes and the Drakes volleyball team.

This is the first year of the bond referendum, passed last year will continue to make improvements to District 32’s facilities equipment.

The outdoor playspace for students was resurfaced and sodded this summer by student and faculty volunteers, saving labor costs and gave the volunteers pride in their school, according to Hansen.

Improvements to the boiler systems, heating systems and the elementary school’s air exchange will be addressed in the upcoming year.

Manic Mondays

In general, District 32 will be using those updated systems and facilities more this year than in comparison to other schools in the area and across the state of Minnesota due to their four-day school week.

Unlike a traditional five-day, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. school week, Blackduck dropped Monday classes and extended the school day to 4:20 p.m. making giving students more time in the classroom and saving the district money in the long-run on busing, employees and food.

“This winter, it worked out fabulous because all the snow days fell on Mondays for all the other schools and we don’t have school on Mondays,” Hansen said. “Time-wise, it made you smile because our Mondays were clear already.”

In order to change its academic calendar, the district was required to submit an application the Minnesota Board of Education. It was approved and Blackduck Public Schools began the change in the fall of 2009—. Now in its fourth year, the four-day school week has proved success for the district with higher test scores, new programs and immense savings which have gone toward other needed projects in the districts.

Initially, the Board of Education approved only two years but Blackduck reapplied and was granted an additional three years — which will be completed after the spring of 2015.

“I know that (the district) will be looking to re-up again,” Hansen said. “I would assume that they’ll want to continue it because of the successes they’ve had.”

This summer, Blackduck High School snagged the No. 33 spot on the list of Minnesota’s top high schools as decided by the U.S. News and World Report — a list of 339. To even make the list, the school must hold a gold or silver ranking, and Blackduck is silver.

Blackduck also held some of the highest percentages of passing students on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment exams compared to schools in the area, sometimes at a gap of over 20 percent.

Giving back

Blackduck’s successes are projected to only continue now that Blackduck High School alum Bruce Clubb started the Clubb Trust, providing funding for several programs that aid students in need of additional help in math and reading courses.

Clubb is a 1949 graduate of BHS and now lives in Virginia.

According to Hansen, Clubb chose to give back to his alma mater because his family feel that Blackduck made a real difference in their lives.

The trust funds have created the “Read 180” program, “Math 180” and “System 44” which aid students who have fallen behind in reading and mathematics.

Clubb was also the best friend of Hansen’s father, Hansen said.

“The interesting part for me is that Bruce Clubb and my dad were best friends in high school,” he said. “The combination of me coming back here (from Brainerd) as principal has been really enjoyable to meet him because my dad died at 62 of cancer and that was 20 years ago.”

Clubb plans to return to Blackduck with his nephew in October for the Homecoming celebration and plans to see his investments in person. The programs are in place for the elementary school and junior high students who tested lower on the MCA exams in order to get them back on track for high school.

“I got an email from Mr. Clubb last week saying that he now wants to do things for the gifted and talented,” Hansen said. “We are looking at a robotics program, we are looking at building and trades with lasers. It’s the stuff you normally couldn't do and they are giving us an opening that we can do for kids.”