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Coleman Board Pleased With Renovation Work Compliments

Issue Date: January 23, 2020

At the Coleman School Board meeting on Monday, Jan. 20, Board president Ryan Wendt and other board members expressed pride and pleasure in results of remodeling/renovation work done at the elementary school portion of the building last year, and heard from Superintendent Doug Polomis about plans for the high school improvements planned to start on April 1 of this year.

After explanations from Polomis the board voted unanimously to go forward with plan developed by Baird for the district to invest some of the money raised by the referendum until it is needed to pay for the next round of renovation bonds that come due in 2026. Polomis said by accepting the Baird plan the district can save about $188,000 in interest which means the debt can be paid off sooner. The other choice would be to keep the money in the bank, where it is drawing almost no interest. He will prepare resolutions for the defeasance plan that the board is expected to adopt at its February meeting.

Polomis explained to keep the tax rate even during the lifetime of the referendum levy they had levied $436,000 more than needed this year and those funds will be kept in escrow until needed to pay off bonds.

In discussing the referendum projects, Wendt said he had recently attended basketball and wrestling tournaments held in the newly refurbished elementary school gym, with huge crowds at both. "Everybody was talking about how nice that facility is," Wendt said, expressing pride at the compliments, and at how much had been accomplished with the money available.

Board member Corey Kuchta said even his 83-year-old father was so impressed that he had called his brother at 9:30 at night to tell him how nice the school is now.

Board Member Scott Herzog said the Girl Scouts had met there and they commented on how nice everything is in the building, especially the floors and the renovated cafeteria.

Polomis told the board he had met for about two hours on Friday, Jan. 17 with members of the Miron, Bray and Tweet-Garrot team to discuss plans for the high school portion of the renovations, mainly how to handle issues with the storm sewer lines. He said they had brought in cameras to view the lines from inside and found blockages of up to 80 percent in one area, and found cracks elsewhere. They are now looking at a fiberglass liner as a solution. Meanwhile, the sump pump still runs into those lines.

Drains from the new roof to be put on the building will go into a separate storm sewer system, and that should help, he said. He added they may want to also line those drains, "because we want to be sure they will be lasting a long, long time.

Polomis said there was a change in plans, and the high school stairwell from the cafeteria to the English and band rooms upstairs will stay in place. Without it, students would have needed to walk through the cafeteria to reach their classrooms, sometimes when other students were eating there "which would not be a good thing."

They have decided to keep the current science lab for use by elementary and middle school students for experiments that would have otherwise had to be done in the classrooms.

Polomis said the high school renovation work is still scheduled to start on April 1, and plans are to start moving out wood and metals shop equipment about two weeks before that.

The contractor will take the equipment out and place it in their climate controlled storage facility until it can be returned to the school, Polomis said.

Polomis reported that about 25 members of emergency response groups - firefighters and rescue squad personnel - from the villages of Coleman and Pound and towns of Brazeau and Pound had done a walk-through of the elementary and middle school, with focus on the nurse's station and on mechanical rooms and kitchen, where it is most likely that fires would occur.

"It is important that they (emergency responders) have a comfort level and are familiar with the building, Polomis said. "I applaud these volunteers for being willing to take time out of their busy schedules for the tour, and for all their work to keep the community safe," Polomis declared.

Numerous wording and technical changes in district's social media policies had been approved at a Policy Committee meeting immediately preceding the board meeting, and will come to the board for approval next month.

Every January school boards in Wisconsin have to approve open enrollment policies for the next school year. Students and their families can apply for Open Enrollment for the 2020-2021 school only between February 1 and April 3 of the current school year. On Polomis' recommendation the board agreed to again place no limit on open enrollment for regular classes, which is a financial benefit for the district, and to allow special ed students to come in through open enrollment only if it can be done without adding staff. This meant allowing no special ed open enrollment for students from pre-K through grade 5, which are already at or very near capacity, and accepting two for Middle school and four for high school.

There are currently 716 students enrolled at Coleman, two fewer than in September, but still three more than there were in January of 2019.

In junior kindergarten and kindergarten there are a total of 57 students each, with three teachers each. Other enrollment levels are 48 in 1st grade, 45 in 2nd, 43 each in grades 3 and 4, 51 in 5th, 55 in 6th, 47 in 7th, 55 in 8th, 55 in 9th, 60 in 10th, 42 in 11th and 59 in 12th. Polomis commented he is encouraged that enrollment numbers seem to be going up.

The board discussed changing pay for substitute teachers and seemed to agree that there should be a slight pay increase, but it was not on the agenda for action so no action was taken. Polomis said currently Coleman pays $100 for an 8-hour per day sub, which equates to $13.75 per hour. Neighboring districts pay $120 or $125 per day. Raising the pay to $120 per day would add about $12,000 to the annual budget, Polomis said, adding that is a significant impact, but they need to stay competitive. He said they are fortunate to have retired staff members willing to return as subs at the pay offered. "Subs enjoy coming to Coleman because we have good kids," he commented, and repeated, "I feel fortunate that we still have quality subs." Wendt expressed hope that kids today treat the subs better than they were treated when he was a Coleman student.

Pay rate for long-term subs is $150 per day, which is very comparable with pay elsewhere. Polomis said Administrative Assistant Lori Karban still calls sub personally when they are needed, which he felt also helps.

At their last meeting board members had been given copies of a proposed new pay scale for teaching staff next year, and it was unanimously approved by the board at the Jan. 20 meeting. It bumps up starting salaries and gives a slight raise to those at the top end of the scale.

A number of trips for Future Farmers of America events were approved as requested by advisor Cindi Wautier. Polomis commented that Wautier does an excellent job of providing opportunities for FFA kids to learn outside the classroom. Wendt agreed and expressed special thanks to her for the work she does, and said it is very nice to see FFA so active.

Board member Joanne Nowak cast the sole opposing vote for one of the FFA events, noting that it involves a Sunday."I have a problem with school functions on Sundays," she declared. "Sundays should be set aside for family and worship. You are making a parent and child choose between worship and an extra curricular activity, and I think that is wrong."

At the end of the meeting the board went into closed executive session for administrative review and discussion of staffing for the 2020-2021 school year. After returning to open session they took no action before adjournment.

In his report to the board as high school principal Polomis said semester exams will be on Wednesday, Jan. 22 and Thursday, Jan. 23 and Drivers Ed will again be offered at the high school through First Rate Driving School starting on Tuesday, Jan. 28.

Elementary/Middle School Principal Yvette Marshall reported the District Spelling Bee will be held for students in grades 4 through 8 on Tuesday, Jan. 28, and the winner will compete in regionals.

Middle School started a new program, "No Phones, New Friends Friday" to build communication through face to face conversations.

Elementary/Middle School art teacher Bridget Paquette is currently painting a large wall mural in the elementary cafeteria, with images of the school and the Cougar mascot. "We are so fortunate to have such talent within our staff," Marshall declared.


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