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Wolford school board discusses school building’s future

By Staff | Aug 23, 2019

The Wolford School District #1 Board met Tuesday evening in the school library to tie up loose ends with the defunct school’s budget and discuss the empty building’s fate.

School Superintendent Larry Zavada told the group some financial matters hinge on a hearing by the North Dakota State Board of Public School Education, set for September 16 at 1 p.m. in Bismarck. The meeting will decide how neighboring districts will absorb portions of the former Wolford district.

Wolford School Business Manager Wanita Olson presented financial reports detailing revenues and expenditures for July. The board voted to absorb some accounts for which no new revenues were expected, such as school lunches, into the general fund.

Olson reported the general fund balance as of July 31 was $49,852.72. She also presented a preliminary financial preview for 2019-2020, which listed assets of a $55,018.64 building fund, $62,478.76 in special reserves and $447,842.27 in the general fund levy. Total carryover from all accounts last year was $119,544.36.

Olson reported revenue from a rummage sale August 10 and sales of equipment and items to other schools. The rummage sale brought in $14,635, and the school sales amounted to $8,500. The remaining school vehicle, a red Chevrolet Suburban, sold for $1,350.

Expenditures expected included wages and benefits for employees performing administrative duties to close the school at $65,176.48. Additional expenses amounted to $284,565.29, including $75,000 reserved for possible future unemployment claims.

The district’s projected revenue balance for 2019-2020 is approximately $378,000.

Zavada touched on revenue topics such as mill levies. “Ideally, I’d like to see us lower our mills,” he said. “However, it’s crunch time (for the budget).”

Olson told the board that budget numbers are due in the Pierce County Auditor’s office October 10.

The board reviewed projected payments to neighboring districts taking on former Wolford students.

Zavada reported three students are attending Leeds public schools; Rolette has 11 former Wolford students; 11 students are homeschooled and approximately 16 k-12 Wolford students attend Rugby public schools. Three former Wolford students will attend TGU schools.

Zavada told the board he had met with administrators from Rugby and Rolette schools last week, and he hoped to discuss tuition and transportation payments to Rolette further.

Wolford School District pays approximately $12,000 in tuition for the three Leeds students, no tuition for the 16 Rugby students and $67,982.84 in tuition for the 11 Rolette students. Rolette contracts with Harlow’s School Bus Service for transportation. Zavada estimated Harlow’s would bill Wolford approximately $42,000 for bus service. Average per-student costs to Wolford were estimated at $4,000 for Leeds, $3,000 for Rugby and $10,000 for Rolette.

Zavada also updated the board on the building’s deteriorating condition. “The roof continues to leak,” Zavada noted. “Tiles are now falling from the (ceiling) in the social studies classroom.”

The board heard concerns about mold developing, possible asbestos from components of the building, and the age of fixtures such as the boiler. Chemicals requiring proper disposal are in the building as well.

The board voted to use a program through the Souris Basin Planning Council to have the asbestos content assessed for free and receive a list of available contractors for removal. The board also voted to contract with Land Surveying Services of Devils Lake to survey the building.

“I’ll tell you what, you walk around the building, and you look at so many things (that need to be addressed),” Zavada said.

“What are things going to look like (in the building) a year from now?” Olson agreed. “What’s the social studies room going to look like with all the (pieces) falling from the ceiling?”

Several board members mentioned being approached by Wolford alumni and others with fond memories of the school.

Board member Tara Handegard reported four community members had expressed interest in forming a committee to help preserve Wolford School, but more are needed.

“I think you shouldn’t take on that responsibility (of saving the school) yourself,” Zavada told her.

“We don’t have a solid group of people who are stepping forward to say, ‘I want to form a foundation’ (to help preserve Wolford School),” Olson noted. “They’re going to have to raise money to keep it going.”

Handegard agreed. “They say, ‘I want to walk these halls; I have a lot of memories’; I say, ‘I understand, but we have a lot of bills to pay to keep this going.'”

Future events planned for the school include another rummage sale next Wednesday at 9 a.m., and a 2020 all-school reunion June 11-12 of next year.

For information on reunion activities or ways to help preserve the school, contact Wolford School at (701) 583-2387, or visit Wolford School at facebook.com.

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