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Buses pass inspection, field trip fate unknown

June 26, 2011
by Antonio Acosta, Register Staff Writer
What a difference a year makes.

On Tuesday, United South Central Superintendent Jerry Jensen had some good news for the board.

Fourteen of the district’s 15 buses passed a Minnesota Department of Transportation “unannounced inspection” with flying colors.

In addition, 11 vans also were found to be safe and had no deficiencies.

“This is just huge. The inspectors had nothing but good things to say where we have brought our fleet,” says Jensen. “A lot of good work has been done by our staff. We are slowly getting off their radar screen.”

In May 2010, the DOT?“red-tagged” six buses for minor infractions.

Jensen says the district’s fleet has been declining with age. He says two buses have been purchased since last year.

The lone bus failing inspection was due to a leaking seal in the brake system.

“It was an installation problem,” he says. “We can’t drive it until it is repaired.”

In other business, the future of the Camp Patterson field trip has been put on hold.

Fourth-grade teachers Karen Robbins and Colleen Dalton gave the board an overview of this year’s 11th annual event, which had 33 students and 39 adult volunteers attending. While both feel the two-day trip that includes one overnight stay is beneficial to students as well as the adults, they are seeking pay for the time involved with planning and preparation.

They are each asking $400 in compensation.

“We love the experience, but we can’t do it without being compensated. The $400 wouldn’t even cover my time,” says Robbins.

Jensen expressed some reservation about paying the two organizers.

“I’m concerned about opening the door for other field trips,” says Jensen. “I’m not real comfortable with that.”

Board member Christie Wetzel wasn’t against paying the teachers, provided district funds were not used and compensation was not part of the master contract.

In the past, money from a fundraiser and fees from participants have helped cover some of the expenses.

Robbins and Dalton stressed the field trip teaches goal-setting and provides parental involvement.

“It’s an extension of the classroom,” Dalton says.

Robbins says Camp Patterson differs from other events because it involves continuous teaching.

“We have sessions and activities we provide. Someone else doesn’t do that for us,” she adds.

Board chair Kathy Krebsbach made a motion to table the matter until the next meeting.

“We need more information and time to digest what has been said,” she says.

The board approved the preliminary budget for the school year 2011-12.

Expenditures total $8.851 million, while revenues are estimated at $8.63 million.

Jensen says any fund shortage will be paid out of the district’s reserves of about $1.7 million.

“I still think we don’t need to make any reductions,” Jensen told the board.

Like other districts, USC officials have kept a close eye on a possible state government shutdown.

Financial manager Jodell Timm says the district is expected to receive $415,000 in state aid next month and $1.146 million in August.

If the payments are delayed, Timm says the district has a $300,000 line-of-credit with a state lender and reserves also could be used.

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