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School board approves lease with The Learning Center

By James Grob,

The Charles City School District Board of Directors unanimously approved a five-year lease proposal with TLC: The Learning Center for sections of the North Grand Building at Monday’s meeting.

Under the contract, TLC — a non-profit child care center in Charles City — will lease the home school resource room, the Iowa BIG North room, the architecture room, the music rooms, the girls swimming locker room and the gymnasium in the North Grand Building.

TLC will pay the school district a nominal $1 per year as rent. TLC will contract and pay for all utilities including heat, water, sewer, gas, electricity, trash removal and internet service.

TLC will also be responsible for routine maintenance and repair including plumbing fixtures, light fixtures and janitorial services.

“There are still some minor details to work out, but this is the balcony view of the lease which allows us to finalize the contract,” Charles City Superintendent of Schools Mike Fisher told the board. “This allows TLC to begin the process of renovation of the North Grand Building.”

TLC’s “Grand Plan Project” is part of an agreement the school district entered with TLC more than two years ago. The proposal includes a lease for five years with an option to purchase part of the North Grand Building.

TLC, which was founded in 2001, is planning to move into the North Grand Building by as early as next fall, then expand its capacity and operations in the years beyond.

“We’re excited that we’re about to see the second phase of the next 50-100 years of the North Grand Building,” Fisher said.

The district put a request for proposals (RFP) out to see if anyone other than TLC was interested in leasing or purchasing the space in the North Grand Building. The district received no response to the RFP.

“It’s monumental that we are at this point with this project right now,” said TLC Director Pam Ost. “We’re very excited at TLC. The school district has been a huge partner for us in keeping this project moving through all circumstance.”

The west end of the North Grand Building has been purchased by developer Shawn Foutch, who is turning that side of the former middle school into apartments. The east end of the building will remain with the school district, which has been working with TLC to move its operations there.

“We appreciate this partnership more and more each day,” Ost said. “We are ready to start the formalization of the rooms and getting our children and more children into the center as quickly as we can.”

Ost said TLC is currently licensed for 93 children, and the move to North Grand would allow for somewhere between 145 and 160 children.

The Charles City School District has committed to dividing the space the child care facility would use from the older part of the building that will be renovated for apartments, splitting the utilities and making sure the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system is adequate in the TLC part of the building, and replacing the roof on the north side of the building.

In the last two years, TLC has received $900,000 in funding for the project, including $100,000 from the city of Charles City ($33,333 each year for three years), $10,000 from Floyd County Community Foundation, $10,000 from Charles City Area Development, $5,000 promised from the Floyd County Board of Supervisors in 2022, $750,000 from the state of Iowa through the Iowans Investing in Child Care fund and an additional $25,000 from the Child Care Challenge Fund, through the state of Iowa.

Also Monday, the school board approved a five-year agreement with Agile Minds for Middle School Math Curriculum in grades 6-8, totaling $46,200. The cost will be paid out of federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSR) funds, provided to school districts for the purpose of mitigating the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We do have general fund money we could use to pay for this, but this is absolutely an eligible expense, if we follow the ESSR guidelines,” Fisher said. “This frees up general fund money for us to do other things, or to save the money.”

The move to Agile Minds was made after “careful consideration and review by a team of teachers and Principal Joe Taylor and the math task force” to update the middle school math curriculum. This math curriculum will also provide professional learning for the staff.

“We will now have one math curriculum in K-5, and another math curriculum in grades 6-12,” Fisher said. “This is huge, and will play a huge part as we look to improve test scores and other things.”

Fisher stressed that the curriculum change recommendation came from the teachers themselves.

In other business, the school board set a date and time for a public hearing concerning the district’s 2020-21 Flex Funding. The hearing will be Monday, June 28, at 6:15 p.m. in the high school library.

“We didn’t use the Flex Funding very much this year, because we had the ESSR funds and other funding,” Fisher said. “These expenses either came before the federal COVID funding, or they just aren’t eligible for COVID relief funding in general.”

Expenses and transfers up for public comment at the hearing include Washington Elementary landscaping, at a cost of $14,616.97, district wide signage, at a cost of $8,430.20 and photography for the signage at a cost of $1,695. Total cost is $24,742.17. Anyone interested is invited to attend this hearing and be heard. Written comments may be submitted to Evan Marten, board secretary, on or before June 28 at 3 p.m.

A public hearing is required by law any time the district wants to use Flex Funding. Fisher explained that the projects have already been executed and paid out of other funds, and by transferring them to Flex Funding it saves money in the general fund.

In other business Monday, the board:
— Approved The Learning Connection Third Amendment to provide funding for the Learning Connection program at Carrie Lane. The program provides 18 weeks of classes for pregnant or parenting teens. They do not need to be enrolled in Carrie Lane, but if they are students they receive credit toward graduation for participating.
— Set a public hearing concerning changes to the 2021-22 calendar for Monday, June 28, at 6:15 p.m. in the high school library. At issue is the date for graduation ceremonies at the end of the school year, as they have been held Memorial Day Weekend in recent years, and many have mentioned that this is a difficult time to hold the ceremonies.
— Approved the resignation of Camie Crawford-Miller, sixth-grade English/language arts teacher, effective June 14.
— Approved the transfer of Julie Molstead, from the high school to the new virtual campus, effective July 1.
— Approved the appointment of Kailey Eskildsen, 1st grade teacher, at a salary of $38,746, effective Aug. 12.
— Approved the appointment of Megan LaBarge, 2nd grade teacher, at a salary of $60,316, effective Aug. 12.
— Approved the appointment of Tammy Wheeler, middle school confidential secretary, at a wage of $19.41 per hour, effective July 1.

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