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Lake Park-Audubon's small space causing conflict

Some tidbits from the Lake Park-Audubon School Board meeting Tuesday:

Board Chairwoman Vicky Grondahl reported that personnel conflict has been roiling the serenity of the space shared by the Early Childhood Family Education and Community Education programs.

"We have 11 people trying to share a space that's way too small," she said. "It's very difficult not to be involved in other people's business when working that closely," she said.

At a meeting to resolve the problem, it was decided that one solution would be for the two department heads to meet weekly, Grondahl said, to diffuse any problems that may be developing.

"Always keeping in mind what's best for the kids," she added.

Cyber bullying

Several members attended a recent convention for the Minnesota School Boards Association.

Dale Binde attended a session on cyber bullying. The district has a policy to address the problem, but Binde stressed that it's important for districts to take complaints seriously and act on them quickly.

"The attorney said school districts need to stop cyber bullying before it really happens," he said.

No 'friends' on Facebook

With the ability to send text messages and to become "friends" on Facebook and other social networking sites, technology has created new potential problems with "boundary issues" between teachers and students, said Grondahl.

"It's a sticky wicket to walk down," she said. "If I was a teacher, I would not have student friends on Facebook. We are mandatory reporters -- if we see pictures of former students drinking, we must report it. We have a policy on this too, but this scares me."

The seminar she attended provided a list of about 20 potential boundary issues.

"The best approach is to deal with it right away," she said. "Let the teacher know there are some boundary issues going on."

State budget meltdown

On the financial front, bad economic news for the state is expected to continue for perhaps 6-7 years rather than the 3-4 years that had been expected, Grondahl said.

Public education has so far avoided steep cuts or unallotment attacks, but 40 percent of the state budget goes towards education, and "schools will no longer be held harmless," she said.

The state is considering implementing a law that lets it borrow money from undesignated school district reserves. The funds must be paid back the same year.

"The state is going to not have money to pay its bills in March or April, so we'll know more about that (possibility) shortly," she told the board.

In the face of grim economic news, presenters at the convention tried to rally school board members.

"Whatever we do, we're here to make the best decisions for kids, and don't ever lose that," was the message, Grondahl said.

An end to diesel fume

With diesel fumes from idling buses a problem for air quality at LP-A schools, Grondahl said the district may want to take a close look at Project Green Fleet, an effort to reduce emissions from Minnesota's school buses and other diesel vehicles.

Vehicles with diesel engines represent only 10 percent of traffic on Minnesota roads, but contribute to more than 50 percent of air pollution generated by vehicles in the state.

A collaborative effort among business, government and non-profits to improve air quality, Project Green Fleet aims to reduce diesel emissions by installing pollution control equipment, using "idle reduction technologies" and replacing older engines with new, cleaner running engines.

All are provided at little to no cost to participating fleets.

"The only cost to us is filter maintenance," Grondahl said. The first year is free, after that it would cost $100 per bus per year for filters.