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New school year will bring wheelchair accessible bleachers, bus to Pequot Lakes

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New bleachers for the football field at Pequot Lakes High School will be installed after the 2014 season, Superintendent Chris Lindholm told the Pequot Lakes School Board at its Monday, July 21, meeting.

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The bleachers will bring the school in line with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements. Initial plans called for installation this summer of larger bleachers with a wheelchair accessible ramp, but Lindholm said he halted that plan after determining the bleachers would be too large for the space available.

Instead, the new bleachers will feature a wheelchair lift, still allowing disabled individuals to gain access to the bleachers while saving space.

Lindholm said new footings will be installed this month and in August, but full installation will be completed after the last fall football game. Nearby propane tanks will be moved closer to the tennis courts to make way for the bleachers.

Another move by the district aimed at increasing accessibility is the purchase of an ADA-compliant school bus, one of three new buses to be added to the fleet this school year. Lindholm said the bus will feature some removable seats to allow space for up to three wheelchairs.

Kathy Allen, an assistant girls' volleyball coach, will now be able to travel on the bus with the teams. Allen uses a wheelchair and has been driving separately in her accessible van to away events.

She said she first began discussions about an ADA-compliant bus with the district when she was asked to chaperone for girls' basketball.

"I said, 'It's kind of hard to get me in and out of a bus,' " she said.

When she heard the school would be purchasing new buses for the 2014-15 school year, she got in touch with school board member Curt Johnson to request the board consider a wheelchair-accessible bus.

Lindholm told her last week that the bus was on order. Transportation Director Randy Maxfield said the bus is slightly more expensive than a regular bus, but not significantly. The capacity is the same as a regular bus, but is reduced by five - from 71 to 66 - when all the wheelchair spaces are occupied.

Allen said she is happy about the new bus, but that it should have happened a lot sooner.

"It isn't just parents that need this," she said. "It's amazing how quickly something can happen to you, whether you're a child or an adult."

In other business Monday, the school board:

• Heard from Lindholm that the district was to roll over to a new phone system July 22-23, and the district's new website is now live. The new URL is www.isd186.org, and beginning Aug. 15, visitors to the old website will be redirected. Lindholm also said the district is working with Lakes Printing in Brainerd to re-design the letterhead and other materials to match the look of the website, achieving what he called a "cohesive district brand."

• Accepted donations totaling $10,800, including $7,500 from Crow Wing Power for scholarship funds and $1,000 from the Patriot Athletic Club for the track and field program.

• Adopted an updated bullying prohibition policy that reflects the new state law.

• Recognized lane changes for the following staff members: second-grade teacher Julie Benson, middle level special education teacher Jamie Grabowska, eighth-grade science teacher Matthew Ingman, high school math teacher Dana Kaiser and middle level special education teacher Sherry Pape.

• Accepted resignations from Laurie Wig, director of curriculum, assessment and instructional technology; Kara DeVriendt, paraprofessional; and Chuck Lane, middle level football coach.

• Approved staff hires of Tracy Tschida, teaching and learning coordinator; Gary Edmundson, lead night custodian; Mike Franzen, night custodian; LaVonne Murray, high school counselor; and Kelly Jackson, elementary teacher.

• Approved coaching and advising assignments for the 2014-15 school year. There are several openings, including assistant football coach, middle level football coach, head dance coach, assistant dance coach, junior varsity dance coach, junior varsity boys' hockey, junior varsity girls' hockey, head speech coach and middle level National Honor Society adviser.

New advisers include Angie Klein, a new high school English teacher, who will take over high school student council; and Spanish teacher Christine Palmer, who will head the Spanish Club.

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Chelsey Perkins
Chelsey Perkins grew up in Crosslake and is a graduate of Pequot Lakes High School. She earned her Bachelor's degree in professional journalism from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities. Perkins has interned at the Lake Country Echo and the Rochester and Austin Post-Bulletins and also worked for the student-run Minnesota Daily newspaper as a copy editor and columnist during college. She went on to intern at Utne Reader magazine, where she was later hired as the research editor. Before joining the Brainerd Dispatch, Perkins worked as a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal.
(218) 855-5874
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