Aitkin School

As the renovation project at Aitkin High School comes close to entering its final phase, one piece of the puzzle has yet to be sorted – the location of the school offices.

While a plan for the offices was presented at Monday night’s Aitkin School Board meeting, that plan was rejected by school board members. The plan would have relocated offices within the building to comply with a new secure entry, but potentially created a concern about people walking through the halls unescorted.

The location of the offices – and the secure entryway that will be covered by a state grant – is back to the drawing board, which is creating a delay.

“I was hoping to be bidding the process by now,” said Aitkin Superintendent Dan Stifter, who added that having the board review the options so no work had to be redone was a positive.

“I respect the board for wanting to make sure we do that,” Stifter added.

Stifter said Thursday that Phase II of the project – which involved renovating hallways between the auditorium and the old gym, and science room work – is “pretty much done.” The offices are now a part of phase III, work on which started early due to asbestos abatement being needed in the cafeteria area that is becoming a commons.

The exact placements of the new offices and the secure entry, though, remain up in the air due to a number of different options about where the entry – and the offices – should be placed. As a result, exactly how much the district needed to complete the project is unknown.

Ehlers’ Matthew Hammer made a presentation at Monday’s meeting on potentially borrowing money from the Minnesota Capital Facilities Bonds. Hammer presented two different plans that would have principals of $985,000 or about $1.1 million borrowed and paid back over 11 years.

However, as Greg Crowe from Ehlers said later in the week, “it’s up to the district to decide” if either plan – or neither – is appealing. Stifter said Thursday that he believed there was enough money to finish the commons work. The offices and new secure entry would then be covered by the state grant of $495,000.

The board scheduled a work session for Monday Feb. 3 to address a variety of budgeting issues.

In other business Monday night:

• The board gave its unanimous approval to move forward with a cooperative golf program with Crosby. Low numbers for the boys program on one end and the girls on the other has led to both schools looking to co-op. The situation would involve a two-year commitment with four coaches, though the board would like the program to look at cost-saving measures with fewer coaches.

• Stifter announced in his superintendent’s report that Angie Sahr had tentatively accepted a position with Aitkin County, and the district is looking to post her payroll position, and to post the business manager position as well. The business manager position is currently filled by Earl Athman with a one-year contract.

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