Alternative school has new home

MARSHALL – The Marshall Public School board approved a lease agreement with Marshall Call Center, LLC Monday at its regular board meeting, providing the alternate school with a suitable location that aligns with the district’s forward-thinking vision.

At a past meeting, the board voted to rename Marshall East Campus Learning Alternative (MECLA) as well as the re-brand the program to meet the vocational workforce needs within the region. But one key piece – location – was missing.

“At one point in time, we talked about considering the acquisition of a property,” MPS Superintendent Klint Willert said. “Upon input and feedback from the board as far as the processes that we’d have to take as it relates to the Minnesota Department of Education at this time, we have considered an alternate solution, which is a lease agreement with Marshall Call Center, LLC, which is going to be the name of the agency. This does initiate the next step as we move forward in the process that we talked about with our vocational school.”

The premise is located at 305 S. 2nd Street in Marshall and consists of approximately 25,000 square feet. Through the proposal, the Call Center will move from its current location in the central part of the building to the furthest south part of the building, allowing the district to have its own space.

“The Call Center would have a separate entrance,” Willert said. “The school district would have a separate entrance. There would be a wall of separation between the two organizations. There would be no mingling of students with call center staff. This really provides a nice location for us as we move forward with this alternative program.”

The lease is for fiveyears, with the option of continuing for an additional five years. The rent commences on Jan. 1, 2014.

“We can occupy immediately at that time and start doing some transformation pieces,” Willert said. “I know this means we won’t be moving the program tomorrow. But it does allow us to make a thoughtful plan and look at very realistically, a mid-year transition of the program.”

Willert noted that the process to secure an adequate facility for the alternative program has taken awhile.

“It’s been a long time coming,” he said. “A lot of work has gone into it the last three or four years to arrive at the point where we are. So I’m happy to bring forward this recommendation this evening.”

The new location not only provides the district with a facility in which to build a vocational future, but it also cuts utility costs for the school during the next three years.

“The cost of the square foot is basically the same as what we’re currently paying,” MPS Business Director Bruce Lamprecht said. “The only difference is that we won’t be paying any utilities for the first three years, which we are now. So it’s actually more affordable for the first three years.”

The board also voted to move forward with a revenue authorization resolution, calling for a Nov. 5 election. A ballot question will be put to the voters, asking them to approve the general education revenue (operating referendum) by $150 per adjusted pupil unit.

“This would generate an additional $375,000 a year beginning the 2014-15 school year,” Lamprecht said. “That would be each year for the next four years.”

Even with the $150 increase, taxpayers would still see a decrease in property taxes after factoring in the amounts generated by the state’s property tax reform and the district’s savings regarding the bond refunding, administrators said.

“With the changing tax base, coupled with the bond refunding, along with some of the other changes from the state, our public would still be presented with a tax decrease overall to what we’re paying now,” Willert said. “And it would allow us the opportunity to bring forward our needs for technology and school safety.”

Willert noted that more challenges lie ahead of the district in regards to technology.

“There’s talk about schools having to move to all digital by 2015 or 2016,” he said. “That would make textbooks obsolete, which is going to be a challenge for us.”

Lamprecht reiterated that the districts needs are evident and ongoing and that the referendum would certainly help provide a solution.

“The needs are there,” he said. “It isn’t just things the district wants.”

The board decided to table the issue of graduation assessments, noting that there needed to be further review.

“I don’t want anyone to think we have an easy way to graduate,” board member Curt Kovash said regarding the state’s newly proposed graduation assessments.

The board also approved an increase in the pay rate for substitute teachers. The last increase was implemented at the start of the 2008-09 school year.

The new rate increases the full-day compensation from $100 to $110 and the half-day rate from $50 to $55, effective this year.