The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Ironwood board approves bus, repeater purchases


June 24, 2020


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Ironwood — The Ironwood Area Schools continues to improve its bus fleet after the board of education approved purchasing two new buses and other equipment Monday.

Along with the buses, the board approved purchasing a new radio repeater and three radios to help improve the district’s ability to communicate with its bus fleet.

“The repeater, I’m really excited about,” Ironwood Superintendent Travis Powell said after the meeting.

The district’s previous radio repeater died in 2007, according to Powell, leaving dead zones in various parts of the district where the buses can’t be reached by radio.

He said the new repeater will be installed on existing equipment on the Luther L. Wright K-12 School’s roof.

“When we mapped it out from that height, we should have coverage for 90-plus percent of our district,” Powell said. “The closer you get to (Lake Superior), where it drops down, there might be little pockets there (where the radios can’t reach).”

The radios the board approved purchasing use the state’s police bandwidth, according to Powell, meaning they can also communicate with emergency authorities anywhere in the state if there was an emergency while traveling out of the area.

The buses and radio equipment purchases will partially be funded through U.S. Department of Agriculture grants the district applied for in fall.

The buses cost $84,127 each, according to information presented to the board, with the USDA grants covering $44,700 of the price tag. The district will pay for the remaining $39,427 of each bus with funds from the millage voters passed in August 2018 for buses and other district improvements.

A USDA grant will cover $8,000 of the $15,000 price tag for the repeater and radio purchases. Millage funds will also be used to pay for the remainder of those costs, according to information presented to the board.

Gogebic County is one of three counties in Michigan where qualifying organizations were eligible to apply for the USDA grants designed to help communities where the Federal Emergency Management Agency issued disaster declarations in 2018, according to a USDA news release.

Gogebic County, along with Houghton and Menominee counties, qualified through the Aug. 2, 2018 disaster declaration regarding the June 16-18 storms that caused flooding around the region.

For the district’s grants, USDA Rural Development funded 55% of the project costs, with the district paying the remaining 45% in matching funds.

The district previously received a USDA grant to expand Chromebook access for its students.

In other action, the board:

—Adopted the 2020-2021 budget. The budget holds the line on spending, as the district still doesn’t know how much money the state will give per student. Powell said the budget will likely be amended once Ironwood receives the necessary financial information from the state.

—Approved contracts with the district’s three bargaining units. The contracts are the same as the existing contracts and last six months, according to Powell. He said the measure keeps the district in a holding pattern until there is more information on how much money the district will receive from the state.

—Passed a budget amendment finalizing the 2019-2020 budget.

—Approved the 12 graduates in Class of 2020 for the district’s alternative education program.

—Authorized the district to call for bids for the district’s bread and milk contracts.

—Renewed the district’s student athletic accident insurance.

—Voted to join the Upper Peninsula Virtual Academy. The decision to join the UPVA consortium would “allow students and families in our district who would otherwise be seeking an online or fully virtual learning experience to have a more local option,” by remaining members of the district, according to Powell and information presented to the board.

—Renewed the district’s membership in the Michigan Association of School Boards.

—Approved purchasing a new plow truck for $10,500.

—Authorized school officials to consider purchasing a van with a lift out of funds from the district’s food service budget. The van would be not only used to deliver meals remotely as needed, but could also be used to transport students and equipment on trips.

—Authorized spending additional money on the LLW elevator. The money is needed to bring the elevator up to code and is needed in addition to the funds authorized for the elevator in the 2018 millage.

—Accepted a Michigan Multi-Tiered Systems of Support grant that will provide additional behavioral support for the district.


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