School board seeking public input regarding proposed sale of school land to HRA

School board seeking public input regarding proposed sale of school land to HRA

March is off to a busy start for the Cook County ISD 166 school board.

In addition to holding a work session on Mar. 2, the school board is preparing for the proposed sale of the 27 acres of school land north of the Gunflint Trail to the Housing Redevelopment Authority (HRA). However, before moving forward, the school district seeks public input and comments. 

The public is invited to attend the next school board meeting on Mar. 16 at 5 p.m. to provide feedback and input on the proposed sale. If an individual is unable to attend the school board meeting, comments can be submitted to Chris Lindholm, superintendent at ISD 166. His email address is 

Following multiple meetings with HRA Director Jason Hale, the school board and superintendent have identified some proposed terms for the property transaction. 

The proposed terms for the property transaction include the following:

  • ISD 166 shall provide the approximately 27 acres it owns on the north side of Gunflint Trail to the HRA at no cost for the development of residential housing. 
  • Once received, the HRA will replat the property and, as funding and market demands dictate, construct new public infrastructure. 
  • In exchange for the property, the HRA shall provide 20% of all newly platted lots to ISD 166 at no cost. ISD 166 lots will be evenly distributed as utilities are constructed and become available to each lot. 
  • ISD 166 may build upon or sell their lots at their discretion. 
  • The HRA shall have 180 days to conduct due diligence, at its own cost, before the property transaction closes and shall have the right to extend this term by 90 days if progress has been made and the delay is not due to HRA inaction. 
  • This will provide time for the following activities: 
    • Boundary, topographical, and ALTA surveys
    • Wetland delineation
    • Boring samples
    • Title search and commitment
    • Obtain cost estimates
    • Site planning
  • The HRA shall impose a deed restriction that prohibits short-term rental use in any primary dwelling unit. 
  • If no development, including infrastructure, occurs within five years of conveyance, the HRA must reconvey the property to ISD 166 upon request at the HRA’s expense. 
  • Aside from commencing construction activity within five years and the provision of new lots to ISD 166, the HRA shall have no other obligations to ISD 166 surrounding the property or this transaction.

Lindholm said in an interview with WTIP, “We’re paying property tax on property we’re not using. And we have land that is zoned residential, that could be part of the housing solution here in Cook County.” 

“We could gain students, and we could gain housing for staffing. So it looks like a good deal,” he added. 

The school paid approximately $9000 in property taxes on the 27 acres in 2022. 

Work Session

In other school news, the school board held a work session on Mar. 2 in Grand Portage. Lindholm said that approximately ten members of the Grand Portage community attended the work session, including a tribal council member and members of the Local Indian Education Committee (LIEC). 

The discussion during the work session revolved around identifying strengths and weaknesses at Cook County ISD 166, discussing math, reading, and science scores, behavior incident referrals, attendance statistics, and student activity participation. 

“We were trying to look at where do we have discrepancies between all students and indigenous students with discipline, or attendance, or engagement in activities,” Lindholm said. 

In 2022, the total number of students meeting math standards was 27.2%, compared to 39.8% five years prior in 2018. The 2022 statewide percentage of proficiency in math is 45.5%.

Students meeting reading standards in 2022 was 57.8%, up from 54.9% in 2018. Students meeting science standards in 2022 was 43.5%, down from 55.6% in 2018. 

When breaking down the core subject statistics, the graphics provided during the work session showed that 25% of the 16 American Indian students tested showed proficiency in math. The statewide average for American Indian students is 19%.

In addition, of the 19 American Indian students tested for reading, 47.4% were proficient in 2022. For science, of the 14 American Indian students tested, 35.7% were proficient. 

While some core subjects such as reading and science show meeting or exceeding statewide proficiency levels, Lindholm said, “There’s no question that we can do better in some areas of academics.” 

“I think the areas of growth continue to be helping every student meet their individual academic goals and goals for after high school,” Lindholm said. 

Lindholm said the discussion during the work session after looking at the statistics was a “healthy, respectful, caring, and authentic conversation about what we can do to celebrate, first of all, and also what we can do better to help our students.” 

AVID Program Update

The recently implemented AVID program at ISD 166 has continued to receive mixed feelings from students and parents. 

The Advancement Via Individual Determination, commonly known as the AVID program, originated in the 1980s at Clairemont High School near San Diego, California. The program is currently implemented in more than 7,000 schools across 47 states in the U.S. Cook County ISD 166 adopted the program at the start of the 2022/23 school year.

The AVID program is taught by the ISD 166 superintendent’s wife, Kristin Lindholm. The other ISD 166 teachers implementing AVID strategies in their classrooms are middle school science teacher Emma Spoon and middle school math teacher Steven Anderson. As the program continues to roll out, middle school social studies teacher Melanie Olsen, among others, will begin implementing AVID strategies.

Chris Lindholm, superintendent at ISD 166, said the program focuses on helping students with skills they can apply in their classes, including critical thinking, inquiry, collaboration, organization, and reading.

On Jan. 19, numerous parents attended the school board meeting to discuss the recently implemented AVID program. 

Whether before the meeting or shortly thereafter, multiple parents decided to pull their children from the program. When asked how many students have been officially pulled out of the program, Lindholm said he did not have the number off the top of his head.

Lindholm said the students that are pulled from the AVID program are moved into a study hall instead. “So that is kind of just the option in case parents do pull their students out; they can move over to that study hall instead.”

“We think that AVID is the right program for all of our students. But that is what has happened,” he said. 

School Bus Drivers

The school district is seeking school bus drivers. Lindholm said, “We have a couple that are planning to retire at the end of the year.” 

“If there are people out there in the community interested in driving bus, we are desperate to have you give us a call and sign up,” Lindholm said. “We can certainly provide training and walk you through what the job looks like.”

Lindholm said the school district would work with prospective individuals to drive only mornings or evenings. 

WTIP’s Kalli Hawkins spoke with Superintendent Lindholm for an update from ISD 166 and the school board discussions. Audio from the interview is below.