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WDC School Board: Elementary work to continue through holidays

Wadena-Deer Creek School board members reviewed a site plan of the planned reconstruction of the area outside of the WDC Elementary School and Memorial Auditorium as the plan undergoes fine tuning.

Sharing updates on the project was Site Superintendent Chris Wacker, who said he felt the current plan to add a large parking area, playground, and close a portion of Dayton Avenue was "making the absolute best use of the space."

WDC Superintendent Lee Westrum said the current plan adds about 13 new parking spaces during school hours and over 70 spaces after school hours.

Wacker said soil testing in the area showed there was a good base to work with.

Moving back inside the WDC Elementary School, work continues on a punch list of renovated areas. Wacker said work in the boiler room should be complete this week and with 17 items on the punchlist, he felt they could complete the work over Christmas vacation.

Wacker said he's looking forward to the next phase of demolition and said the earliest work may begin in April in the auditorium.

Westrum shared with school board members that the original interior work did not include HVAC or lighting updates in the library wing, but it appeared as though they would be able to include those in recent reviews. He also said they may be able to add a digital sign at the corner of Colfax and Second Street, sharing upcoming happenings.

In other actions, the board:

• Commended the drama department on their recent play, "Murder Mystery at the Murder Mystery."

• Approved new hires including Caitlin Volkmann, elementary para; Jennifer Steinke, high school para; Cheryl Kellen, Title I LT sub; Benjamin Thurston, HS custodian.

• Approved retirements for Sandie Rentz, Food Service Director/Community Education director. Rentz retirement is effective March 29. At that time, she will have worked for the school district for 40 years. Supt. Lee Westrum noted that Rentz, being a director of both community education and food services, was extremely unusual. "She will be missed and we'll get to work figuring out how we are going to fill her shoes," Westrum said.

• Approved retirement for Shirley Luttrell, Title I teacher. She is retiring after 29 years. Westrum also wished her well in her retirement.

• Approved the resignation of Howie Kangas as head football coach and showed appreciation for his work.

• Approved a contract renewal for Superintendent Lee Westrum.

• Approved a finance report from business manager Bryan Jacobson.

• Heard from an auditor with Eide Bailly that the school received an unmodified opinion on their audit, the highest and best opinion they can get. The auditor attributed the good opinion to the business office's clean handling of the school district finances. The board approved the audit report with no additional questions or comments. The audit showed the district spent about $986,000 in federal awards in 2018.

• Heard the first reading of policy related to paying for food expenses of staff. The policy states that staff can be reimbursed up to $10 for breakfast, $20 for lunch and $25 for dinner for school district business-related expenses. Westrum said this won't likely be a huge expense for the district, he said he'd be surprised if it was over a couple thousand dollars for the school year.

• Approved allowing a cooperative agreement with Verndale Public School to allow a Wadena student to join the speech team currently in Verndale. Wadena does not currently have an active speech program and hasn't since 2010, according to Supt. Westrum. It will be the student's responsibility to travel to and from practices. Board members agreed that it would be nice to build the program back up in Wadena if enough students show interest.

• Heard from CEO students who shared how their class is different from others in that they have class in businesses in the surrounding communities, learning about becoming entrepreneurs. Students are currently planning their own businesses.