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"After all these years, still doing a great job!!" -Ron Hermanson
Civic Auditorium receives some grace
T.A. Doughty-St. Hilaire
The St. Croix Falls City Council held a three-hour meeting via zoom, which was streamed live on Facebook, on Monday night.
Two items regarding the Civic Auditorium were held over from previous meetings. It is fair to say that former mayor, Arnie Carlson was not a supporter of the project, and had been battling against it. In particular he did not want to see the project completed with the use of TIF funds.
Members who were openly hostile to the project were appointed to the Community Development Authority, who oversees expenditures from the TIF. At their first meeting, members of the CDA were asking how they could procure outside legal opinion regarding the use of TIF funds, rather than learn their duties as members, the original purpose of the meeting.
Months later the former mayor called together the joint review board, which is populated by the tax entities that the TIF District is located within (the school district, WITC, Polk County, city). Carlson argued that because the project no longer included the proposed hotel portion of the project and because of that it would no longer expand the tax base and therefore did not qualify as a TIF project.
The board voted to remove their approval for the project, with the school district representative abstaining, stating that the matter had not been brought before the school board for consideration and therefore they could not make an educated decision on the matter.
No formal action was taken on the two agenda items until Monday night. Alderman Jeff Virchow gave new council members Joe Snyder and Craig Lien an abridged version of what happened to get them up to speed.
“By way of a recap, the CDA was terminated in December (2019) for operating outside the scope of their authority and violating the cooperative agreement with the city for their attempts to scuttle the project,” noted Virchow, adding the recommendation of the now defunct CDA was irrelevant.
Alderman Warren White made the clarification that the volunteers who served on the CDA were not irrelevant, only the actions they took on the matter.
The council voted unanimously not to accept the recommendation of the CDA due to the fact that the situation has changed and their recommendation is no longer applicable.
The situation has changed because a private investor has been found that is interested in the Civic Auditorium as well as the lot next door.
The council also voted to disregard the decision of the Joint Review Board for the same reason. The information that they based their decision on is no longer valid because the situation has changed.
It was also pointed out that WITC based their decision on a legal opinion that they had received at the time.
For now, for the first time in many months, if not years, the Civic Auditorium project is not in immediate jeopardy and isn’t currently on the chopping block, though it is not for lack of trying on the part of some of the powers that were.
It is hard to say what will happen with the Civic Auditorium project. While it has had staunch supporters of the past decade, it has also had some very vocal opposition. The idea that those who have spoke so loudly against it will suddenly go quiet, even though opponents of the project were so soundly defeated in this spring’s election, seems unlikely.
April 30, 2020
Students share what they are thankful for
T.A. Doughty-St. Hilaire
There is little doubt that students, especially seniors feel that they got shafted. Prom has been canceled. Schools are trying to figure out how to do virtual commencements and awards ceremonies.
During this time there is fear and uncertainty for many, students and adults included. For some kids, school is an escape for an unhappy home life. It is a social place that may help them feel less isolated.
This time in history which is being experienced is putting pressure on individuals and families as a whole, but there are some students in the St. Croix Falls School District that have still found something to be grateful for.
What follows are excerpts of letters from freshman Saints sharing what they are grateful for.
“Dear Government Leaders,
“Thank you for keeping everything in line and on track, especially during this time.
“Because of you, America is going to fight this virus and overcome it, and be on top in the end.
“I know that being a government leader is not an easy job and that it takes a lot of work and effort to keep everything right. It is a lot of pressure to make some hard decisions on certain topics, and you try to do your best to do the right thing. Thank you for handling the pressure through the time of COVID-19, and working hard to help move America along.
“Your decisions allow US citizens to have many privileges like the right to vote, run for office, have freedom, etc.
“Thank you for keeping us safe and handling the current situation so well. I would not want to have anyone else in your position than you…”
The next letter was addressed to the voters in the recent school district referendum:
“I am grateful for everyone that took the time to vote for the school referendum. As you all know, it passed! I feel blessed to live in a community and a nation that so strongly supports its students and places a high value on offering much-needed equipment, supplies, and space.
“It takes a lot these days to support students and it can come at a high price. I will never forget the generosity it took from the community for me to be able to go to a school with a new weight room. I love lifting weights and believe it helps kids have the opportunity to burn off energy.
Another student expressed their gratitude for poll workers and many others:
“Even though I am not of the legal age to vote, I thank polling workers for helping to ensure that our government stays strong.
“Thank you to the school’s referendum on giving us an opinion in our school, and for giving us more power.
“To the lawmakers in not just Wisconsin, everywhere, thank you for keeping us safe in our day to day lives.
“Thank you to our government leaders for taking this situation seriously, and for keeping us safe and healthy…
“Thank you to anyone who has checked up on their friends and asked how they are doing, mentally and physically.”
Another student expressed her gratitude regarding the passage of the referendum:
“I would like to thank the voters of the SCF referendum. Now student athletes will actually be able to have a nice weight room. I have long awaited this. My brothers are also super grateful.
“Also, the fact that we are getting an actual auditorium is thrilling. Students of the performing arts will finally have a stage to do a wonderful performance, not that we do not already. Think of an actual stage to perform on. It’s going to be lovely.
“It is not just the students and teachers who are happy. The bus drivers as well. They can clean the buses inside a garage. Now some will not to have to park outside in the gravel parking lot.
“Thank you so much.”
Another student also directed their gratitude towards political leadership:
“Dear Government Leader,
Thank you for all your hard work and for trying your best to keep each citizen as safe as possible.
“I’m sure it is very stressful for you with everyone’s opinion being forced on you. I am so thankful that you are trying your best to keep us healthy. It is incredible that throughout all of this we can still have freedoms that other countries no longer have.
“Thank you for representing the people and fighting for our interests. It means a lot to me that you continue to help our country maintain our freedoms. So again, thank you…”
As is apparent, many students were aware of the referendum and what it meant for the student body:
“To the voters in the recent SCF school referendum,
First of all, I want to thank you for voting for the referendum because this will benefit our school in many ways. This could really be a great addition to our school. I know that many kids could utilize the weight room and auditorium. Our sports athletes can train with the new equipment and a bigger weight room. They will benefit from this by getting stronger and improving in the sport.
“Our drama program may also become bigger in our school. Not only will the auditorium benefit kids in theater, it will also benefit teachers who would like to do a class discussion there.
“The juniors could also use the auditorium for their junior seminar so they aren’t all crowded in a small room.
“So overall, I would like to say thank you, because you really are helping our school become better.”
The final letter is again directed to leadership:
“Dear Government Leader,
I would like to personally thank you for keeping our state safe from the COVID-19 outbreak. I know that you are doing all you can to keep us safe.
“I respect that you have canceled school and spring sports. I know that you are doing it to keep us healthy.
“Also, I have heard that we might be opening up our country some time in the near future. That would be nice…I miss my friends and I cannot wait to see them again.
“I understand that you guys are doing all you can to slow the rate of the virus and I support you and your decisions. All in all, I would just like to say thank you for all you have done for us during this pandemic.”
It just goes to show you, that there are still things to be grateful for. And while it is very disappointing for the many students that they will be missing out on rites of passage, in the grand scheme of things, while 2020 has been, and will no doubt continue to be a hellacious year, missing some things will seem a small matter in the grand scheme of things.
May 7, 2020
St. Croix Falls schools boast some of the best
T.A. Doughty-St. Hilaire
The St. Croix Falls School District has a lot of things going for it. A talented student body, both academically and athletically, their referendum just passed, and a dedicated and creative staff. Everything was going great for students and staff alike, until COVID-19 abruptly closed the doors.
There are, however, some bright spots that shine through the gloom. Three teachers and one principal from the district were recognized for all their hard work by the Herb Kohl Educational Foundation.
The Herb Kohl Teacher Fellowship recognizes teachers who have demonstrated superior ability to inspire love of learning in their students, have motivated others, and have provided meritorious service both inside and outside the classroom.
The Herb Kohl Educational Foundation has been recognizing educational excellence annually since 1990, awarding fellowships to 100 Wisconsin teachers and matching grants to each teacher's school.
Gudmunsen is a vocal/music teacher for both the middle and high school as well as an alumni of the district.
A $6000 Herb Kohl Educational Foundation 2020 Teacher Fellowship has been awarded to Shawn Gudmunsen. The school will receive a matching $6,000 grant.
Wondra is a language arts teacher at St. Croix Falls Middle School. He also earned a fellowship award.
A $6000 Herb Kohl Educational Foundation 2020 Teacher Fellowship has been awarded to Chris Wondra, teacher at St. Croix Falls Middle School. The school will receive a matching $6,000 grant.
Sinclear-Todd has been with the district for many years serving as a physical education teacher and gymnastics coach in the past.
Sinclear-Todd currently serves the district as a guidance counselor and is a familiar face at school functions of every kind.
Sinclear-Todd also received a $6,000 fellowship award. The school will also receive a $6,000 matching grant.
Elementary Principal Rita Platt
Last, but not least, is Elementary School Principal Rita Platt. Platt is known for her love of the kids in her school and her unquenchable zest for life. She has even published a book on education aimed at helping other educators.
A $6,000 Herb Kohl 2020 Principal Leadership Award has been given to St. Croix Falls Elementary School principal Rita Platt. Leadership Award recipients are school principals who are being recognized for setting high standards for instruction, achievement and character, and creating a climate to best serve students, families, staff and community.
It likely has to be some sort of a record for a school district have three teachers and a principal earn these fellowship/leadership awards. Not only did they earn money for their own classroom, they earned just as much for their districts.
Currently in its 30th year of recognizing educational excellence, the Herb Kohl Educational Foundation has awarded $21.2 million to Wisconsin students, teachers, principals and schools.
May 14, 2020
Mayor makes statement regarding opening back up
T.A. Doughty-St. Hilaire
St. Croix Falls Mayor Kirk Anderson is entering his term under some unique and unforeseen circumstances.
The COVID-19 pandemic saw the country and the state shutdown. Non-essential businesses were ordered closed, schools were closed, and life as it was known was turned on its head as everyone was instructed to avoid each other in hopes of slowing down the disease’s progression through the population.
Because cases were still on the rise, the Safer at Home order was extended. Republicans in the legislature cried foul, and the conservative Supreme Court at the state level agreed. Wisconsinites have been turned loose with seemly little guidance and no cogent plan in place. As the governor stated in an interview, it’s the wild west.
Mayor Anderson released a statement via his Facebook page, shortly after the 4-3 Supreme Court decision was announced:
“As mayor, I understand that there are a variety of concerns about what this means for our businesses and you personally. You may be excited, nervous, nervous or angry about this court decision.
“I am hopeful. I am hopeful that businesses can reopen and operate effectively and profitably, without compromising public or personal safety.
“The court’s decision ruled the DHS Emergency Order 28 ‘unlawful’ and ‘unenforceable,’ ending it effective immediately.
“(Note: the Court declined the Legislature’s request to stay any enforcement of an injunction for six days, noting that two weeks have passed since they began considering the case and ‘…therefore, we trust that the Legislature and Palm [Secretary designee] have placed the interests of the people of Wisconsin first and have been working together in good faith to establish a lawful tule that addresses COVID-19…’
“I believe that everyone is striving to do what is best to protect the health and economic well being of Wisconsin residents and this latest decision highlights the need of everyone to work together to make our way through the situation.
“The court’s decision confirms that we are currently able to open for business, but also suggests that the court trusts that the DHS and legislature should already be working together in good fait to establish a lawful order to deal COVID-19, so be prepared for that too.
“Keep in mind that on May 1, the Polk County Board voted on and passed a resolution urging Governor Evers to ‘allow regions within the State to determine for themselves the best and safest way to allow businesses to slowly reopen’ and ‘encourages local officials to exercise their discretion on enforcement of the Governor’s Orders in a manner that is reasonable, especially when businesses are following physical distancing and other recommended safety measures.’
“Also, on April 21, Polk County Sheriff Brent Waak made it very clear that his agency would not be using its resources to enforce the DHS Order #28, leaving that to the discretion of the health department and local law enforcement agencies.
“Wednesday’s Wisconsin Supreme Court decision immediately ended the DHS Order #28, opening up Wisconsin businesses, but it does not eliminate the need for Wisconsinites to be vigilant moving forward.
“Businesses and individuals should understand that COVID-19 is still a significant health threat and should take preventative actions to protect their customers and themselves from the COVID-19 virus.
“Businesses are encouraged to pay close attention to state and local health department recommendations regarding the Supreme Court decision and watch for possible new rules enacted through the legislature and the governor.
“Before Wednesday’s court decision the WEDC [Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation] had already issued detailed reopening guidelines to be followed under the emergency order. I urge you to read through these guidelines as soon as possible,” Anderson concluded.
Guidelines can be found at wedc.org/reopen-guidelines.
Anderson also included an update from the Polk County Health Department released on May 14. As of this time, the local county health department is recommending the following:
-Businesses should still check with their insurance provider and legal counsel (if applicable).
-Businesses should follow the WEDC business-specific guidance (each business sector has a toolkit).
-Businesses should implement physical distancing and public health recommendations to the fullest extent possible (a physical distancing guideline is four people per 1,000 square feet, or operating at 25 percent capacity).
-Businesses can call the health department for technical assistance. They will try to educate to get businesses to operate safely.
-If something “egregious” is occurring, people are asked to contact the health department so that they can work collaboratively to address the issue.
There is the potential for future action from the State, so it is uncertain where things may go.
May 21, 2020
Local tobacco business linked to THC sales
Two individuals, Zachary Briese, 22, and Damion Scherer, 20, both of St. Croix Falls, were arrested in connection with THC (marijuana) sales at the St. Croix Falls Tobacco and Vape shop on Highway 8.
According to the criminal complaint filed with the Circuit Court in Polk County, the incident dates back to the last week of February and the first week of March when an investigator had a conversation with a confidential informant (CI) regarding the St. Croix Falls Tobacco and Vape Shop and the activities related to the sale of THC cartridges.
The investigator stated that the CI said they had spoken in the past to a person believed to be the owner of the business about purchasing THC cartridges.
In another incident, the CI stated that they had inquired with an employee at the store about buying THC cartridges. After inquiring about the cartridges, the store employee communicated with someone on the phone, and a short time later, an adult male responded to the business and sold the CI a THC cartridge for $35. The person the CI was referring to was later identified to be Laith Ali Mohammad Alseid, who works at the St. Croix Tobacco and Vape Shop.
On March 4, the CI agreed to conduct a controlled purchase of THC cartridges from the St. Croix Falls Tobacco and Vape Shop. The CI was provided with $60 and fitted with a recording device designed to capture audio. One investigator sat outside the store while the CI and another investigator went inside. After a short time in the store, the CI and investigator were seen exiting the store and getting into the CI’s vehicle. Shortly thereafter, a gold-colored vehicle entered the parking lot and pulled up next to the CI’s car, which was when an adult male exited the vehicle and identified himself via Snapchat as Damion Scherer.
The criminal complaint states that the CI was provided with two THC cartridges for a purchase price of $70. The liquid tested positive for THC via field test.
The CI and investigator entered the store and made contact with a worker who appeared to be Middle Eastern and had a strong foreign accent, the man identified himself as Laith.
When asked about the THC cartridges, Laith called an unknown person on his cell phone. The CI and investigator went outside to the parking lot which was when a vehicle arrived and approached the driver’s side of the CI’s vehicle. The male suspect stated that the cartridges contained 78 percent THC and that they would “cost $35 each and when asked about a better price, he stated they would be $30 if 10 more were purchased,” according to the criminal complaint.
Upon reviewing the audio from the CI’s device, they noted that they could hear the voice of an adult male speaking with a heavy Middle Eastern accent who was believed to be Laith.
The investigator states that officers identified the subject who sold the THC cartridges as Scherer and the driver of the suspect vehicle was identified as Briese.
On March 16, officers executed a search warrant at the shared residence of Briese and Scherer where the officers found items related to the consumption of marijuana.
In addition to that, Scherer said that officers would find THC wax, bongs and THC cartridge boxes. He acknowledged knowing the subjects who owned and work at the St. Croix Falls Tobacco and Vape business – including Laith.
When asked about the aforementioned March 4 incident, Scherer stated that he remembered the incident and admitted he was contacted by Laith through text message regarding someone waiting to purchase THC cartridges and recalled going to the parking lot and selling two THC cartridges.
Scherer stated that he had done the same thing before and that he would be contacted by Laith regarding the purchase. Scherer would then go and sell the cartridges “as a favor to Laith.”
The report states that Briese was also interviewed and he confirmed that in the past Scherer would be messaged and then tell Briese that he needed a ride to the St. Croix Falls Tobacco and Vape Store. Briese said that he knew Scherer sold THC cartridges during that meeting.
Once officers had located Laith, he was confirmed to be Laith Ali Mohammad Alseid.
He denied any employees selling THC cartridges, denied ever being a middle man in any exchanges of THC cartridges or marijuana from the store. He also denied knowing Scherer.
Anan Barbarawi, the owner of St. Croix Falls Tobacco and Vape Shop (as well as 13 other tobacco stores), made an appearance at the St. Croix Falls City Council meeting on Monday night to speak on behalf of his business and their request for a tobacco license.
Barbarawi acknowledged the law enforcement intervention in March.
“We did have an incident where the cops in St. Croix Falls did bust a drug dealer. When they asked him where he got the drugs from, he gave the wrong information which is ‘we got it from St. Croix Tobacco,’ they raided the store at that time searching for drugs,” Barbarawi said.
According to Barbarawi, the officers didn’t find anything, and they will be fighting it in court. The Department of Revenue did seize some of the store’s tobacco products claiming that it was not taxed properly.
They have hired lawyers to try and get their tobacco product back because they provided documents showing that it had been properly taxed, according to Barbarawi.
“We shouldn’t have any problem; we didn’t do anything wrong. We’ve been in business for over 15 years and we do everything right. What happened was false information was given to the police department,” Barbarawi said.
The aforementioned criminal complaint – which was filed on June 15 – was not discussed at the St. Croix Falls City Council meeting.
After Barbarawi’s statement, the council voted and unanimously approved the tobacco license for the store. The St. Croix Falls Tobacco and Vape Shop is still in the process of getting their product back from the Department of Revenue.
July 2, 2020
Water tower project underway, remaining money allocated
The Village of Dresser has begun the water tower painting project as well as weekly meetings to provide updates on the progress to the village.
At the Monday night Dresser Village Board meeting, Village Board President Bryan “Fatboy” Raddatz praised the efforts of KLM on the project thus far.
“It's a well-oiled machine up there, it's impressive. The weather has been perfect. They've only lost one-half day so far, so that has been awesome, ” Raddatz said.
According to Raddatz's report, the loud noises coming from the water tower improvement project will only last about another week or so.
At the first weekly water tower meeting, there were already change orders being discussed. The governing body of the project decided that they didn't need to change the safety capability of the handrails near the top of the water tower. They did so because there has never been any up there before and because when workers are up there, they are already tied off and secured to prevent any chance of falling. Any new addition would just require more unnecessary maintenance moving forward.
One of the companies working on the project is KLM, a company based out of Woodbury, Minn., that provides water tower services throughout the Midwest.
On their initial inspection, they missed the interior plates that should have been seal welded or caulked. That should have been caught, according to what was said at the weekly water tower meeting.
Due to that being missed on the initial inspection, KLM pledged to weld them up at no additional cost to the village.
“We hired the right company because they said, 'We didn't catch it, that's on us, we'll get them welded up.' KLM is top-notch, they are going to stand behind it and they are going to take care of it. I can't say enough good stuff so far,” Raddatz said.
Because of the renovations to the water tower, the Village of Dresser submitted a Public Service Commission (PSC) rate case application to raise the price of water in the village. The application was submitted to the PSC on July 31. The process can take several months to go through so a final decision will likely not be made until later this year. In terms of rate increases, nothing has been set in stone. If anything, the expected increase is only a few percent on the cost of water in Dresser.
At the Monday night meeting, the Dresser Village Board also discussed several options regarding the $150,000 that was originally borrowed in a resolution for water system improvements.
According to an email from the Village of Dresser, in 2018 the village received the Go Bond for the Horsmann/Peterson Drive Project. That total was $1,425,000 which included $150,000 for water tower repairs.
However, the village found out that the project for the water tower was going to cost more than the allocated $150,000 so the village took out a State Trust Fund Loan for $650,000 to cover the project.
As of Aug. 3, there is $150,000 currently unused which is sitting in the village's investment account. Four options were submitted to the board for consideration regarding the future of that $150,000.
Ultimately, the board unanimously approved the fourth option which is to draw down $100,000 for the current water tower project and then reserve the remaining $50,000 for well number three upgrades or other future water capital projects.
For example, a broken water line, what would be an emergency project, the remaining $50,000 would not be able to be used to fix the break. It has to be used for capital improvement such as replacing the main water line to improve the village's infrastructure.
In approving the motion, the village is creating a safety cushion for future water improvement plans that can be drawn on at any time for capital projects.
August 6, 2020
SCF School District installs anti-virus air system
By Reagan Hoverman
St. Croix Falls High School installed a new air filtration system on Monday that is designed to purify indoor air by eliminating airborne particulates, odors and pathogens. The new filtration system can reduce coronavirus particles – among other viruses and pathogens – by 90 percent or more, according to independent third-party testing.
The school had looked at upgrading the air filtration system in all buildings long before the coronavirus ever reached the United States. Once it got here earlier this year, the school and its administration expedited the process for getting the new system to enhance safety measures for students, staff and visitors to the campus.
The new equipment that was installed in every building is from a company called Global Plasma Solutions (GPS). Their products clean the air through needlepoint bipolar ionization (NPBI), essentially using an electric charge to create a plasma field. Once the air passes through the charged ions, they attach to particles in the air which then makes them filterable. According to GPS, the ions kill pathogens by robbing them of life-sustaining hydrogen.
The independent testing on the filtration system showed a large reduction in a variety of pathogens and viruses that made it through the system. For example, according to the testing, coronavirus was reduced by approximately 90 percent. E. coli was reduced by 99.6 percent. Norovirus was reduced by 93.5 percent. Staphylococcus was reduced by 96.2 percent.
It’s important to note that the new filtration system can’t guarantee that nobody will get sick. It can’t guarantee that COVID-19 will never make its way into the school this fall. However, the new system has shown positive signs – as evident by the testing – that many of the viruses can be reduced significantly, thus making the school safer this fall and beyond.
Many large businesses and government organizations in the United States are already using air-purifying technology. Some of them are the White House, Google, Harvard University, Mayo Clinic, Boston Children’s Hospital and the United States Air Force.
The school has installed approximately 28 of these filtration units throughout the school campus which includes Dresser and the Appleseed childcare facility. The newly installed units don’t have a specific life expectancy, they can be remodeled and upgraded as needed, thus reducing the cost for future maintenance. The machines are also self-cleaning which reduces the workload on custodial and maintenance staff at the school.
One of the main selling points for the new filtration system was a stress reduction on the system. Instead of just filtering more air to keep spaces safe, the air is getting cleaned, meaning machines don’t constantly have to be running at max capacity.
Essentially, the carbon footprint of the school is reduced by reducing the outdoor air intake by up to 75 percent, thus reducing the overall energy consumption by the system.
The new system allowed the school to be flexible in deciding how and where they were going to put some of these filtration systems.
According to Nate Prokop, the Maintenance Supervisor at St. Croix Falls, all of the main buildings were taken care of first. Those include the elementary school, middle school, high school, bus garage, Dresser, and the daycare facility. After that, other filtration systems were put into highly trafficked areas as well.
“We’re trying to be proactive, anything we can do – the big thing is making people feel safe,” Prokop said regarding the filtration system.
This has been one of the many initiatives taken by the school district to try to make the return to school this fall as safe as possible for St. Croix Falls students and staff.
In addition to the air filtration system, the school is also taking extensive measures to sanitize classrooms, busses, and other high traffic areas. For many of those situations, the custodial crew is using a Clorox 360 machine, which can disinfect a bus or classroom in 10 minutes or less.
Currently, the school has two Clorox 360 machines, as well as another one on backorder right now. According to Prokop, the school got each machine for approximately $3,500. That may seem like a lot, but as of now, each unit is being sold for approximately $5,000. The aforementioned 28 filtration system units cost approximately $1,500 each. For 28 total units, the price tag for the school was approximately $42,000.
The demand for the nearly instant-cleaning product has increased since COVID-19 began to spread throughout the United States.
The Clorox machines uses a solution that can’t be mixed on-site, it has to be purchased and then shipped to the school. According to Prokop, the school has a good stock right now and there is always enough in their supply to disinfect all buildings essentially on a moment’s notice.
“We use it in our kitchens, we use it in our bathrooms, it’s not something that we can afford to do every night district-wide, but we rotate. Go through the elementary, high school, middle school. If we had a strep outbreak, now if we have a COVID case, we can go in and do a classroom in 10 minutes or less,” Prokop said about the 360 machines.
The Clorox machines are commonly used in fitness centers and hospitals.
“It’s just another tool in our pocket,” Prokop said.
That has been the mentality for the staff regarding the additional cleaning supplies that are being provided for the upcoming school year. Anything that could help provide more safety is being done in advance so that the full reopening in September goes as smoothly as possible.
August 6, 2020
Superintendent announces school year goals
By Reagan Hoverman
At the Aug. 11 St. Croix Falls School Board meeting, Superintendent Mark Burandt announced his goals for the upcoming academic year to the school board.
While many of his goals are still focused on advancing the district's strategic plan, some of the goals have been altered to reflect the ever-changing global coronavirus pandemic.
“Dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, that has to be a goal,” Burandt said regarding the plans. “We know, or at least we are relatively certain, it's going to be with us for a good chunk of this year. It's going to take an enormous amount of time managing the differences and the nuances.”
The school district has been working on and recently released, a comprehensive reopening plan that addresses as many areas of concern as possible for staff, students and families. According to Burandt and the school board, the reopening plan is a living document that can be amended as needed for a variety of reasons.
Burandt's goal of managing the coronavirus and reopening the school safely relies on three pillars of commitment: safety, instruction and flexibility.
In terms of safety, St. Croix Falls is committed to following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Department of Health Services (DHS), Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) and the Polk County Health Department.
For academic instruction, the plan reflects a desire for traditional classroom learning while maintaining health standards that allow the school to safely reopen. The instruction models are traditional, with remote learning opportunities available for 4K-12 if the school needed to close on short notice.
The ability to close on short notice and still be in a position to give kids adequate instruction is the foundation for the final aspect, flexibility. According to the reopening plan, the plan was developed to allow for a fluid response while keeping in mind staff, student and parent capacity, as well as the financial resources of the school district.
“We've learned a few things since March,” Burandt said. “I would say most of what we've learned has been good. It's been difficult to navigate, but we have to take our silver linings where we can get them. We learned to never say never and never say always.
“Adjusting and adapting to our 'new normal' is something that the school district has and will continue to do.”
Another one of Burandt's goals for the upcoming school year is to make progress on the construction projects that were approved through the recently passed referendum for school improvements to the bus garage, weight room/fitness center and what would be the new performing arts center.
“Right now, the planning phase has begun. The construction and building design committees have been meeting since July,” Burandt said. “We think that we will have something to the [school] board probably in October.”
The proposal that will likely be submitted to the school board will mostly be general concepts and what the facilities will look like from the air.
The projects will be available for bid toward the end of this year or during the first few months of 2021.
According to Burandt, there won't be much going on in terms of construction until the spring of 2021. Depending on weather conditions and the severity of the spring, construction could begin as early as February.
The performing arts center will be the last of the three buildings completed. The four walls could go up as early as next May, but it will be a full year after those walls go up before the rest of the facility is finished due to the complexity of the building.
The fitness center could be open as soon as August of next year. In terms of the nuances of the facility, it is less of a project than the performing arts center.
The final construction piece of the referendum is the addition to the bus garage. According to Burandt, it is the smallest and shortest time duration project of the three. Planning will continue on that project until spring which is when – weather conditions permitting – construction is expected to start.
Essentially, the completion of the aforementioned three school projects will be staggered based on their completion time.
The third and final major goal of Burandt is to continue to implement the strategic plan for the school district.
“The strategic plan has to stay with myself and the district team and the board as an important thing that will guide us as we make major decisions,” Burandt said.
The current strategic plan may need to be amended to reflect the significant changes that the school district has withstood since the coronavirus' impact in March, April and May.
The current strategic plan was approved around this time last year – before the global pandemic.
“That doesn't give us a reason to put this on the electronic shelf and forget about it, but it might give us pause to take a look at the plan and say, 'how do we need to adjust this,'” Burandt said.
He closed by reassuring the school board and by extension the school staff, that they will get through this challenging time.
“There's no road map or playbook for this, but we will create our own if we have to. We'll get through it together. It won't be what it was last year, but it could be better in certain ways,” Burandt said.
Sept. 1 will be the first day that students are back in school for the 2020-21 school year.
August 20, 2020