Tennis court plan back to committee | News, Sports, Jobs

Members of both the boys and girls BEA tennis teams attended the school board meeting to voice their concerns and the need for new tennis courts.

The Blue Earth area school board did not specifically have the proposed new tennis courts on their agenda at their meeting last Monday evening, March 13th. But the problem with the tennis courts came up anyway.

First, during the public comment section of the meeting, members of BEA’s boys’ and girls’ tennis teams came forward early to speak with the board about the tennis court issue.

They described the current state of the courts at Putnam Park and wondered if all of their home games would need to be moved to either United South Central in Wells or Fairmont in the near future.

They also gave their full support for the proposed new eight-place facility at the school. These courts, estimated to cost $1.2 million, have been under discussion between the city of Blue Earth and the school district for some time.

The city council recently passed a motion to pay $330,000 towards the school’s court costs instead of paying a percentage of the costs. The city would continue to pay all costs for construction, with the school district repaying them through rent payments for their share.

During the time of the committee reports in the board meeting, the question of sharing the costs of the courts with the city came up.

School board member Ted Armon was not happy with the city’s new proposal.

“I thought we had agreed on a 60/40 cost split,” said Armon. “Then they wanted to change it to 70/30. Now the city will pay a cost share of $330,000, which is just 27.5 percent of the estimated $1.2 million cost.”

Armon named the change in the amount the city would pay “in bad shape” and wondered about the confidence in the proposals.

Concern was also expressed about making some decisions to get the project off the ground as soon as possible. Another question was asked about a temporary resurface of the current courts, but this was not deemed possible as the city has plans for this area.

After further discussion, the Board decided to return the entire matter to the Common Powers Committee for further negotiations, although no formal request was made.

Fletcher said she will also schedule a meeting with City Administrator Mary Kennedy to review the project further.

In other matters, the board made a decision at the meeting to increase some staff positions for the next school year.

After hearing a revised budget update during its meeting last Monday night, the board decided it might be possible to hire some staff.

The budget update presented by Financial Services Coordinator Alan Wilhelmi indicated that the district is in good financial health in most areas for the 2022-2023 fiscal year ending June 30.

Superintendent Mandy Fletcher had already been working on a proposal to increase staffing in certain areas for the next 2023-2024 school year.

These areas included adding another department (class) for second and third graders, adding an ELA (English Language Arts) teacher for sixth grade and one in the high school, and an assistant principal/behaviour specialist.

When questioned by board members, Fletcher said she estimates the total cost of hiring the new staff for the next school year to be about $450,000.

After discussion, the board voted to accept the proposed new staff for the next year, but only on a one-year trial basis.

After the meeting, Fletcher said she believes adding these staff positions for just a year will be very helpful in dealing with the learning loss experienced during the pandemic.

The board also voted in the staff portion of the meeting to add a new chemistry/physics teacher for next year. They voted to hire Brittany Eckhardt to fill the position.

In other matters at the meeting, the school board shall:

• Heard an update on the entire music program from BEA music teachers Peter Koenig and Paul Johnson.

March is music month in our schools, they said, and they described all the different music opportunities for students in grades Kindergarten through 12.

The two music teachers reported that there are 122 students in the band from grades five to 12, 77 students in the orchestra from grades six to 12, and 189 students in the choir from grades 6 to 12.

They also provided an update on upcoming events and concerts to celebrate Music in Our Schools month, as well as some information on why music is so important in schools.

• Heard an update from Emily Davis, the BEA Workforce Coordinator, about activities for students to explore career opportunities.

This included field trips, industry partnerships, tours of manufacturing facilities and an Ag Day at South Central College.

• Also heard an update from Technology Coordinator Stacy Haase that included information on a Chromebook refresh program, school website overhaul and social media facts.

• Approved the Spring Athletic Coach List, revised 2022-2023 budget and donations to the BUCC-Y backpack program.


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