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Lights, gas wipe out savings

Anticipated savings in the Blackduck School District were outlined Monday by Blackduck School Superintendent Robert Doetsch. The retirement of two long-time teachers, their replacement by younger ones and reductions in the cost of supplies were all included in a $150,000 reduction from the current budget.

Board member Mark Sparby threw cold water on the suggested savings. He cited the probable increase in the price of diesel fuel for the district's school busses.

"If it goes to $5 a gallon like it's expected to and if the light bill goes up like Beltrami Electric says it will and if the cost of fuel pellets goes up again, that knocks out at least half of that $150,000 right there," Sparby said.

In the ensuing discussion, Doetsch was instructed to look for another $120,000 in cuts he will recommend. He had said earlier that it appears a drop in kindergarten enrollments will mean just two classes instead of the three currently. Saying he hopes to add a third teacher for first grade, it will likely be a federally funded position.

Chairman Dale Compton opened the meeting with congratulations to various extracurricular activities teams. Among those mentioned were girls basketball seniors who helped bring the team from three wins a year ago to nine this season. Sam Mistic, Jamie Magoon and Mollie Exner were applauded for their participation and Exner was congratulated for having scored a season total of 1,249 points -- a school all-time high.

Results of a survey of elementary school parents asked about the four-day week in Blackduck, Doetsch said the longer school day has enhanced student progress (75 percent-25 percent); Monday is the favored day off (92 percent-8 percent); the four day week has increased attendance (77 percent-23 percent) and parents by a margin of 83 percent to 17 percent, would choose the four-day week for next year.

The board went on to approve purchase of a new digital piano for choir, hired Tricia Holmgren as head volleyball coach, agreed to use any money received from the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program to reduce overall health insurance costs, accepted architect Jim Lucachick's timetable for roof repairs and accepted proposed new requirements for high school graduation. The changed requirements include adoption of state changes including adding chemistry to science courses.

Mark Buckholz appeared for Energy Services Group which was named the sole provider for the energy analysis and facility improvement measures the board will consider at a special meeting. Doetsch noted no other bids had been received.

After a discussion, Doetsch was instructed to follow up on establishing a credit card system for the school, enabling families to use cards for purchasing food, yearbooks and other items from the school

The board also reviewed its policy on reimbursement for the use of personal automobiles when school vehicles are unavailable. Gas charges will be paid, with receipts. The discussion ended with a vote on a motion by Rachel Larson. Others on the board noted this was the first motion she'd offered since joining the board in January. After some good-natured ribbing, the motion passed, unanimously.