The Alexandria Public School district is assuming responsibility for what the Lakes Area Recreation used to do: providing recreation for the community.

This motion, which will go into effect Jan. 1, was unanimously approved by the school board at its Monday, Nov. 18 meeting, and the school board plus other district staff are enthusiastic.

“We’re excited that we’re bringing this program in,” said Trevor Peterson, director of business services. “It’s going to be a great partnership and we are looking forward to continuing to provide the recreation needs of the area.”

“It seems it’s going to work out well for everybody involved,” said board Chairman Dean Anderson.

A joint powers agreement was created in 1989 by the City of Alexandria, Alexandria and LaGrand townships and Alexandria Public Schools for the purpose of providing youth and adult recreation to area residents. At that time, a portion of the Community Education budget was set aside for contribution to LAR to support the agreement.

The joint powers agreement was recently dissolved by both townships and the city, and the Community Education department will assume responsibility for programs previously provided by LAR, with the exception of services at local beaches.

“We know how important the LAR program has been to this area and we will continue to provide those services,” Peterson said.

Before LAR, the recreation program was provided by the district’s Community Education department, which Peterson said is a very common model across Minnesota.

Changes have been made since 1989, such as the construction of the YMCA building and three district school buildings (Discovery Middle School, Woodland Elementary School and Alexandria Area High School), plus changes in recreational programming.

“A lot of those changes in recent years have pointed to making a different model that needed to be looked at,” Peterson said.

The district will assume all assets and liabilities, but the majority of the liability is what is owed for equipment at Shenanigans, LAR’s indoor playground that opened in February. Assets include a fund balance equal to or greater than the debt for that equipment. Debts and liabilities are estimated at $229,987 and assets are valued at about $261,300.

No money from the district’s general fund for instruction will be used for the recreation programming. Money will come out of Fund 4, a designated Community Education fund.

The board also approved a recreation agreement with the City of Alexandria, one provision being that the city will give $50,000 annually to support recreational programming.

LAR has existing lease spaces that will come under ownership of the district. Peterson said staff will see if anything will need to be modified or redone to fit the needs of the district.

Human resources director Scott Heckert said six positions, such as secretarial and facilitator positions, will be created within the district. Those positions will be filled by current LAR employees, said Community Education Director Lynn Jenc.

Superintendent Julie Critz said district staff is excited to come together and grow in programming, friendships and building a team. Brainstorming new ideas has already started to take place, she said.

In other matters

  • Janeen Peterson, director of Food and Nutrition Services, spoke of how the FNS program promotes wellness and hopes to raise the level of nutritional quality of food for students. She said the number of students buying lunch increased. Those buying breakfast did not change, but fewer students bought items a la carte, amounting to a decrease of about $500 a day. The catering service program grew by about 5% during the past school year, and she is hoping to expand those services even more.

  • Trevor Peterson said the maintenance building on the side of the high school was converted into an industrial technology shop for high school students to work with robotics, small engines and woods. The microphones for the Performing Arts Center at AAHS were upgraded. Exterior lighting at Discovery Middle School was upgraded to LED fixtures and new bleachers were added to the pool area. All district buses are now stored at the Douglas County Fairgrounds.

  • Rick Sansted, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning, went over curriculum and program modifications, listing elective courses the district offers, including the new courses Advanced Metals and Advanced Woods. Staff is working on creating a real world work experience class about marketing. Also, rather than students earning 29 out of 32 possible credits to be eligible for graduation, students will earn 30 out of 33 possible credits because of a new physical education requirement. They also must complete one Program of Study, which is a sequence of three courses in one pathway.

  • Heidi Bordeaux, a bus driver in the district, retires after Dec. 31. She worked 29 years in the district.

Honors and awards recognized

  • Brothers Ben Cook and Nik Cook were both selected to participate in the American Choral Directors Association North Central Region Honors Choir in Milwaukee in March 2020.

  • Jennie Mounsdon was selected as coach of the year for the Northern Minnesota Robotics Conference.

  • Technology integration specialist Lukas Gotto was honored and selected to join this year’s Schoology Ambassador Program, where he will provide input on new features and design, have exclusive speaking opportunities and have a profile on Schoology’s website.