The Brandon-Evansville School Board unanimously approved the hiring of ICS Consulting to help the school district address its facility issues and needs at its Monday night meeting.
The hiring of the consulting firm has the potential for leading to either the building of one or two new schools or the remodeling of existing buildings. The two schools — one in Brandon that was built in 1957 and one in Evansville that was built in 1917 — are aging and both buildings have their share of issues, including non-secure entrances, roof leaks and boiler problems.
Last fall, a referendum failed that would have built a brand new K-12 school in Brandon.
Within the past month, the board had listened to presentations from ICS and three other firms: Johnson Controls, JLG Architects and Kraus-Anderson.
ICS Consulting, which is based out of Blaine, has 80 employees in five cities: Fargo; Sioux Falls; Duluth; Blaine; and Media, Pennsylvania. It concentrates on planning, funding, construction and technical services. According to the two presenters, Lori Christensen and Dave Bergeron, the company is a leading provider of long-range facility and educational planning and implementation services.
School Board member Shane England made the motion to approve hiring ICS, noting that the firm was his first choice. Another board member, Tim Lauthen, agreed, stating that he was very impressed with ICS and the experience the firm has in dealing with school districts around the state.
Don Peschel, Brandon-Evansville's new superintendent, told board members that he also liked ICS Consulting, and one reason for that is because dollars are important and he doesn't feel that they will "charge and arm and a leg."
During the firm's presentation, which took place June 20, ICS Consulting officials told the board it:
• Doesn't want a blanket approach, and will take a customized approach.
• Wants a proven process to develop a thoughtful, cost-effective, long-term plan the district and taxpayers will support.
• Has a high success rate of passing school referendums, with 12 of 14 approved in last year (86 percent).
• Will put students and staff first.
• Stresses the community needs to be involved, and the firm would hold six to seven listening sessions.
• Believes communication is critical, and will develop a communication plan.
• Is endorsed by Lakes Country Service Cooperative.
In other action, the school board:
• Approved a 10-cent increase in all lunch and breakfast prices. Starting this fall, lunch prices will be $2.35 for students in grades K-5; $2.50 for those in grades 6-8; and $2.60 for students in grades 9-12. Student breakfast will be $1.25. An adult breakfast is $1.85 and the adult lunch is $3.75.
• Because of state legislation, school districts across the state must take part in testing for lead in water, paint and soil. As part of the legislation, a three-page document explaining the purpose and process must be added to the school district's safety handbook. Peschel said the water was tested last January in both school buildings and the levels did not exceed the state guidelines. "Good news: Our water is in good shape," he said.
• Was informed by Peschel about Safe Schools grants from the Minnesota Department of Education. He said the district is applying for a grant of between $56,000 and $60,000, that would be used to pay for security cameras and a monitoring system for each of the schools' entrances. Peschel also noted the security camera system is transferable and can be easily taken down and moved if needed. "I am excited and optimistic about getting the grant," he said. "I think it's worth a try and worth our time to help make our school more safe."