Delano Schools, city to apply for Safe Schools funds

Delano Public Schools and the city of Delano are getting ready to submit a joint application for federal grant funding under the Safe Routes to School program.

The Delano School Board approved a resolution supporting the grant application at its Monday, Jan. 28, meeting. As this newspaper went to press, the Delano City Council agenda for Tuesday, Feb. 5, had the same resolution up for council approval.

The School Board also dealt with other topics. Here are some meeting highlights.



The federal government has allotted $3 million in Safe Routes to Schools grant money for Minnesota. The state is administering the money and making grants available to city and school partnerships submitting proposals that meet certain criteria. Delano and Delano Schools applied for a grant in 2008 to improve safe access to Delano Middle School and Delano Elementary School but did not receive any money.

School Board Chair Amy Johnson said parents asked for safer accesses to schools in an online survey conducted in January. The School District has made changes to bus routes based upon infrastructure (such as sidewalks and trails) connecting to schools.

Matt Schoen, superintendent of schools, commented that there are certain areas on the school campus where students need safe places to bike and walk. He added that the school district is conscious of how children are getting to and from school.

In his report to the City Council, City Administrator Phil Kern said the city has gotten comments from residents who are asking for safer opportunities for students to bike and walk to and from school and related activities.

“The most common complaint is the gap between public sidewalk trail systems on Elm Avenue and County Road 30,” he said. “The School District has reiterated that it has heard from parents about this same stretch along Tiger Drive in recent discussions about expanding the school’s walking perimeter.”

Kern also referred to the January survey. The issue of safe access to schools, along with crossing guards, “was the most commonly stated deficiency with the idea of walking/biking to school,” he said.

Delano City Planner Alan Brixius prepared a map showing areas of concern noted by residents contacting the city in recent years. City Engineer Vince Vandertop has been asked to create concepts for solutions to trail gaps and come up with estimates of construction costs.

Meanwhile, Delano city staff is recommending the submission of a grant request for only the portion of the trail extending from Elm Avenue, past the Middle School and heading north up Tiger Drive to the Elementary School, Kern said. He expected the cost of completing this portion of the trail to amount to $292,000. Safe Routes to School grants are reimbursable up to $300,000.

School Superintendent Schoen said a map of proposed improvements will be on the Delano Public Schools web site once the grant application is finalized.



The School Board approved a three year agreement with Frontier for a new phone system for Delano Schools. Superintendent Schoen said it will encompass almost 300 phones in school buildings. He added that every classroom has a phone, as does the Tiger Activity Center.

Business Manager Mary Reeder said the phone contract will cost the school district a little over $200 more that the current contract, which is set to expire in March. But the good news is that the cost will not go up for three years under the new contract.

She expected the new phone system to be in place at the beginning of March or perhaps as late as spring break. Installation would take place over a weekend. Transition would be relatively seamless compared with phone system problems that happened recently.

In late January, the Delano Schools phone system “showed its age,” Superintendent Schoen said. The voice mail system went down, as did all automated direction of incoming phone calls. All phone calls went to a single phone that was answered by staff people working phone duty in shifts.

Schoen got comments from callers who liked having a live person on the other end of the phone. Unfortunately, the volume of calls was too heavy for one person to handle.

Business Manager Mary Reeder said Delano Schools has a contract with Frontier for $12,000 worth of maintenance on the phone system per year. In four days, Delano Schools ate up $10,000 in maintenance money.

Supt. Schoen said the phone system is so antiquated that Frontier had to get software needed for repairs from Duluth.



Communications Specialist Traci Lawman reported on recent School District efforts to communicate with students, parents and staff and ideas for the future. She was looking forward to creating a Twitter account for Delano Schools, improving its presence on Facebook and improving the School District web site. One web site change would make it easier for users to access the district calendar.

Lawman also is looking into an application called “Parent Link” that would unify all district communications on one platform.

Asked how Delano Schools might use Twitter, Lawman gave an ambulance visit to a school as an example. A Twitter message could prevent rumors by explaining the reason for the ambulance stopping at the school.



The School Board approved the 2013-14 school calendar. The first day of school will be Tuesday, Sept. 3, the day after Labor Day. The last day of school is expected to be June 3. However, if Delano Schools were to be closed more than one day because of snow, the additional lost school days would be made up at the end of the school year, Board Chair Johnson said.