Houston Schools considers best use of recent building purchases

Houston School Board from left: Superintendent Mary Morem, Mimi Carlson, President Tom Stilin, Mark Swenson, Gene Lundak and Arlin Peterson. Josh Norlien and Richard Erdmann were absent.
Photo by Wanda Hanson

Houston Schools recently conducted a survey of students, parents, staff and community members to gather feedback on the best use of the former ABLE building and St. Mary’s Catholic Church. A total of 208 people responded.

St. Mary’s was considered a location for extracurricular activities such as dance, one-act play, music rehearsals, lego robotics, and STEM activity space. Other suggested uses were additional space for Hurricane Watch in the summer, banquets, community education classes, and possibly a fitness option. Events happening at the church would likely be shared with the public through a Google calendar.

Suggested uses for the ABLE building included the top on the north side of the building, the MNVA offices on the south side, and sources of external services such as vision, occupational therapy and physiotherapy in the office area. Future uses could be daycare and transforming the garage into a robotic space.

The survey highlighted additional needs/wants for the district, including a weight room, additional gym space, and an auditorium. According to Morem, the uses of building spaces will evolve; no council vote has been requested at this time. MNVA, however, will have to be moved before the next school year.

Solar connection

Brok Johnson of Commercial Solar Specialists attended the meeting virtually to introduce Solar for Schools to the board. Johnson broke down the finances for a possible solar project for the primary and secondary school. Houston schools are eligible to apply for a grant of $223,349 (which would cover 95% of project costs) for two 39.9 KW AC solar collectors. The district would be responsible for the remaining $11,755 which would be recovered during the first two years of operation.

The sensors would be installed on the roofs; any necessary analysis of the roof structure would be carried out before the projects.

Insurance and maintenance have been factored into the total cost.

A site analysis and an initial request have already been carried out; the full grant application is due May 31. No work will be done until the grant has been received.

The electricity produced by the collectors will be used directly in the schools; there will be no surplus to sell. Johnson pointed out that the project would also have educational benefits for the school, particularly in math, science and trades. The board ordered Morem to pursue the final request.

MNVA Costa Rica travel approved

MNVA math instructor Andrew Borne submitted a request to organize a trip to Costa Rica for MNVA students; the ten-day trip led by EF Educational Tours would take place in June 2023. Houston Physical School students as well as any adult employee can attend. The cost of the trip will be $3,305 for students and $3,800 for parents and adults; a deposit of $95 will be required at the time of registration. To help with expenses, scholarships and payment plans are available.

Council approved the request; more information about the trip will be available soon for students.

hurricane hero

High school principal Michael Mangan introduced Hurricane heroes Ethan Kinstler and Sydney Torgerson. Mangan recognized Ethan and Sydney for their “exemplary work in service to their fellow students, their school and their community”. He noted their involvement in sports, extracurricular activities, and church and community involvement.

Ethan thanked his boss at Stinson’s Meats and his parents for helping him become the person he is. Sydney stressed that her faith in God, her parents and her coaches were essential to her development as a hurricane hero.

other business

In other cases, the school board:

• Selected Rushford State Bank as its new official depositary;

• Gave his blessing to the purchase of stop arm cameras for school buses, provided the grant is approved for them;

• Approved a resolution for a lease-purchase of $473,000 for the purchase of the ABLE building; payments will be made until February 2033 with an interest rate of 2.63%;

• has chosen to wait for any decision regarding the upgrade of football or baseball field lighting until another company can review it; insurance will cover poles and fixtures lost in the December storm;

• Approved the trip from November 27 to December 3, 2022, junior/senior to Washington DC;

• expressed their appreciation to retiring teachers, Greta Goetting, Jaclyn Thimmesch and Steven Munderloh;

• Closing of the public meeting for a negotiation strategy session.

The next Houston school board meeting is May 5 at the high school media center; The public is invited to attend.

About Ethel Nester

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