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Middle school to close three days early

School district officials discussed multiple options to complete asbestos removal at Twin Bluff Middle School. (photo by Samantha Bengs)

Asbestos removal and summer construction work is leading to an early start to summer vacation for Twin Bluff Middle School students. At Tuesday's meeting, Red Wing School Board unanimously approved an adjustment to the 2016-17 calendar, with classes at the middle school ending Friday, May 26.

Superintendent Karsten Anderson said the original construction plan called for extensive asbestos abatement work in the middle school to be completed over Christmas break and spring break.

"Because of the citrus odor caused by one of the chemicals used during Christmas break, we will not be abating asbestos over spring break," Anderson said.

Two classrooms have been moved for the remainder of the school year because of the citrus odor. The elimination of the spring break asbestos removal, and a very tight summer construction schedule, had the school district positioned with difficult decisions regarding the end of the school year at the middle school, the superintendent said.

Anderson presented three scenarios that were discussed by district leadership.

The first would see asbestos abatement done at the beginning of the summer. Anderson said this option would cause several potential problems.

"First, we would need to renegotiate the construction schedule with multiple contractors. This may not be possible and would likely increase costs and create logistical problems," he said. Adjusting the construction schedule could mean that not all work would be completed this summer, causing another inconvenience to middle school staff members, Anderson said. The district also considered doubling up on abatement workers to minimize the time impact, but that idea would be difficult due to the high volume of work.

The second option was to begin work related to asbestos abatement Friday, May 26, but hold off-site learning experiences for the last three days of school. Anderson acknowledged the plan, however optimistic, was considered not feasible.

"It would be challenging to conduct these activities without the building to serve as a home base, there would be logistical problems with organizing activities for up to three full days for 650 students," Anderson said. "There would be no simple and strong backup plan if there was inclement weather and we had outdoor activities planned."

Best solution

The recommendation of the district's administrative team was to begin work related to asbestos abatement Friday, May 26, and cancel classes at the middle school Tuesday, May 30, through Thursday, June 1.

"The option would allow abatement workers to begin their work for more than a week before the beginning of summer, giving us a good chance of staying on schedule," Anderson said.

Traditional last day of school activities — including the seventh-grade trip to Valley Fair — will likely occur Friday, May 26. Anderson said teachers and other staff members will participate in staff development activities on the three canceled classroom days.

After confirmation with the Minnesota Department of Education, with the three-day cut, the district will still have a sufficient number of hours in the yearly schedule to generate full funding.

"We realize this change will be an inconvenience to some parents, so we will be offering child care to families who need those services," Anderson said. The care will most likely take place in the Jefferson School building.

Anderson said middle school staff will continue to communicate with parents as plans solidify around the early school closure. He said the district will be looking to partner with community organizations who can provide activities and learning opportunities for students.