School Board divided over agreement with NDSD

Sue Kraft, Lifestyles Editor
The Devils Lake School District has taken on numerous construction projects this summer, including the $4 million expansion at Sweetwater Elementary School. Caution tape was still in place Monday at the entrance of Sweetwater, but administrators say the school will be ready tomorrow when the students head back to class.

The Devils Lake School Board met Monday to discuss construction updates and other back-to-school basics, but the major conversation centered around the agreement between the district and the N.D. School for the Deaf.

Superintendent Steve Swiontek presented an agreement to the board that was drafted by representatives from both schools. The contract would allow NDSD's high school students to receive all of their credits at Devils Lake High School this year.

DLHS principal Ryan Hanson said interpreters have been scheduled and everything seems in place for the six NDSD students that are involved. Some of the students, he noted, took tours of the buildings with their parents and they seem very excited.

The parents, he added, are a little more apprehensive, but know that they are free to come to the administration with any concerns that arise.

“It seems to have gone pretty smoothly so far,” Swiontek said, knocking on the wooden table.

“I think it's a great win-win for both sides,” said board president Ed Brown.

Carmen Suminski, superintendent of NDSD, said, “I feel it's a positive step. I appreciate your partnership and collaboration. I believe it will work.”

The idea was proposed to the board in June by the Department of Public Instruction.

Board member Kory Boehmer, however, wondered why the move had to be made at this time. He said DLHS has been supplementing credits for the NDSD students in the past and questioned why they couldn't continue with that system.

“DPI asked us to take this over,” Swiontek clarified.

Fellow board member Steve Boone also had issues with the rapidly-moving plan.

“I don't think it was approached in the right manner from the officials at DPI,” he said. “I can't support doing things that way.”

Boone said he didn't like the fact that the board found out about the plan in June and had to have it in place by the start of school. He also noted that the board members had to do their own research because it wasn't provided to them.

“I will support whatever decision the board makes,” he said, “but as a board member, I can't support it.”

He continued, “I have no doubt the outcome will be good, I don't doubt that it's a win-win, but we weren't given proper reasons for the change. Not enough background information.”

Boehmer agreed, “Something doesn't feel right. I'll probably support it with a vote, but it doesn't feel right to me. I don't like how it was handled.”

Hanson said he agrees the situation wasn't handled properly, but nothing can be done to change that now. He suggested moving forward instead of looking back.

“It's already happened,” he said. “Here we are, this is where we're at, we need to look at what's best for the kids.”

He said the students are on board and excited to move forward.

“I agree with Mr. Hanson,” said board member Mike Klemetsrud. “We have six kids out there that need help.”

Klemetsrud made a motion to accept the agreement, with the provision that Wayne Sanstead's signature be added to the contract. Sanstead is the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. It passed 3-2, with Boehmer and Boone voting against it.

Other business

• Swiontek informed the board of the construction and maintenance updates at the various school buildings and Business Manager Scott Privratsky provided the financial information on the projects.

Most of the projects are completed or will be finished by the start of school Wednesday.

The press box at Roller Field still needs a little work, Swiontek noted, but there are still 12 days until the first home football game.

Swiontek showed slides of the different projects, including the $4 million addition to Sweetwater, the new lockers and locker room at CMS and the new bleachers at the Sports Center.

“I think the community can be proud of what's been accomplished this summer,” Swiontek said.

“It's a great atmosphere — now it matches our great people,” added Boehmer.

• The board agreed to advertise for bids to renovate the parking lot at Prairie View Elementary School. The lot is nearly unusable in the spring and is in much need of repair.

“I believe we need to cut a drain pipe down the middle of that parking lot, dig out the soft spots, put down fabric over the entire lot, bring in good fill and cover it with recycled asphalt,” Swiontek said.

He said the cost of the project will be $55,000-$60,000.

Swiontek said he had considered just bringing in recycled asphalt, but that would cost about $15,000 and may only hold up for a year or two.

“If we're going to do it, let's do it right,” he said.

The board approved the request and advertising for bids will begin this week. Swiontek said he hopes the project is completed before the ground freezes.

• Tuition waiver requests were granted for several local families, allowing their children to attend Devils Lake schools: Dean and Lauree Wangler, Leeds; Diane and Edward Dixon, Lakota; and Douglas and Samantha Reese, Dakota Prairie School District.