Medford school board

During Monday’s meeting, Medford’s superintendent, Mark Ristau, led the school board on a tour of the media center, which is currently under construction but will be open by the time students return to classes this fall. (Ryan Anderson/People’s Press)

MEDFORD — The Medford school board gained a new member Monday, as Whitney Winkels was appointed to replace Gary Wiersma, who resigned his seat during the board’s June meeting.

Wiersma, whose term runs through 2020, had served on the board for 10½ years, and Jackie Berg, the board’s chairwoman, appointed Winkels to be on the board at least through November’s election. Winkels was approved unanimously, and she indicated she hoped to win election for a full term in November.

The filing term for school board positions is now open and runs through Aug. 14. Other board members who have their terms expiring this year include Bill Cronin, Allison Janke, and Jennifer Jones.

Winkels has been acquainted with multiple board members for years and often told them she’d consider a position “when the time was right,” she said Monday. With a son poised to enter kindergarten this fall — she and her husband, Andrew, also have a 1-year-old daughter — “now is the right time.”

“We’ve been in this area since 2009” — for a time, Winkels and her husband were even neighbors with Medford’s superintendent, Mark Ristau — and “we like the feel of the small community in Medford,” said Winkels, a performing arts marketing manager at Wenger Corporation. “We have enjoyed the community and plan on staying.”

The majority of board members have older children, so Winkels provides “new insight” to the ranks with her young kids, Berg said. She’s also invested in the community and the school district.

Wiersma was also the vice chair, so Berg appointed Jon Sutherland to fill that role. The board will have a reorganization meeting in December following November’s election.

In other developments Monday, the board deferred action on whether to contribute $2,000 more toward a study of the water runoff problems at a 16-acre parcel of land at Fifth Avenue SE in Medford, referred to by many as the old football field, which the district had agreed to sell to Timber Crest LLC this spring for $180,000.

“This has become more work than anticipated,” Ristau said. “There are some potential flood issues,” so a study needs to be undertaken to satisfy the developer, who “won’t pursue the land unless the study is done.”

The study, which would take six-eight weeks, cost $12,000, and Timber Crest refuses to pay any money toward it, Ristau said. Initial plans were to split the $12,000 fee three ways, between the city, the developer, and the school district, but the city recently agreed to make that a two-way split, with the city and the district each contributing $6,000.

“Ultimately, the study will be valuable either way,” he said. “In the end, a small pond may have to be put in the northeast corner” of the plot, and such construction work could cost as much as $1 million.

The board instructed Ristau to return to city administrators to find out how much the city would be willing to pay for any such improvements to the land.

“I’d like to see some commitment from the city before we commit to another $2,000,” Berg said. The flood concerns have “to be fixed at some point.”

“Between the city and us, we may throw $12,000 into nothing,” added Sutherland. “That seems silly to me.”

Also Monday, the board toured the media center, which is currently under construction, but on track to be ready by the time students return this fall.

“Next time we meet, we should have a finished product,” Ristau said. The new media center includes more space for offices and special education, smaller classrooms, and “more of a casual working area for kids.”

The board also approved several new hires Monday, including Wendy Ahnupkana, Bryson Havumaki, and Layce Johnson for special education, Tasha Johnson as an elementary teacher, and Adam Slander for elementary physical education.

At the high school, seventh graders and freshmen will receive their new Chromebooks — the district is transitioning to Chromebooks from iPads — Aug. 21, while eighth graders and sophomores-seniors will receive their devices Aug. 22. The high school’s open house will also be August 29, with timeframes assigned according to last names.

The elementary school will have an open house Aug. 29 starting at 5 p.m. for A-L last names and beginning at 6 p.m. for M-Z last names. In addition, Sept. 4 and 5 will be school readiness days for grades one-six, while kindergartners will have school readiness days Sept. 4-7.

School readiness days allow students and staff time to accomplish many tasks and assessments prior to the official start of the year, according to Josh Carlson, elementary principal. For example, students will have their school photos taken, third graders will undergo a speech screening, and grades one, three, and five will have vision and hearing screenings.

The next Medford school board meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Aug. 20.

Reach Reporter Ryan Anderson at 507-444-2376 or follow him on Twitter @randerson_ryan.

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