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Board agrees to take on lacrosse programs

Esko school board members voted Monday to add both boys and girls lacrosse to its slate of available sports starting in spring of 2024, following the same vote by the partnering Cloquet school board in August.

The girls lacrosse team will be a cooperative of five schools including Hermantown, Proctor, Carlton, Cloquet and Esko. Board chairman Jerry Frederick wanted to know if five schools is too much.

“Who would our competitors be with all five schools together?” he quipped.

“You will be traveling … and that’s one of the challenges,” said high school principal Greg Hexum. “You need enough numbers to feed the healthy and competitive junior varsity and varsity programs, otherwise nobody wants to play.”

The girls team will be known as The Stealth and will have colors of forest green and navy blue. Most of the practices and home games will be at Proctor and Hermantown with one home contest at either Cloquet or Esko.

The programs come at no cost to Esko for the first four years, according to superintendent Aaron Fischer.

“It’s been agreed that the youth groups will pay for all of it,” he reported, while assuring the board that the added sport won’t stress the facilities or pull players from the other sports.

Boys lacrosse will be another Cloquet-Esko-Carlton cooperative — the same as hockey, tennis, girls swimming and boys soccer — with Cloquet hosting the program and calling the team CEC with the Lumberjack logo. The majority of games and practices will be in Cloquet.

Board member Rob Johnson asked how many classes there are in lacrosse and at which level collaborative teams would compete. Hexum said there is a class A and AA.

“I would guess that we would be in the smaller class, even with that [five school] cooperative,” he said.

Other action

• The board set its Truth-in-Taxation hearing for Monday, Dec. 11, and voted to set the maximum levy for the next tax year. This week’s action was preliminary with the final levy set in December.

Although Esko voted to set the levy at the maximum allowable under state law, the actual amount was unknown at the time of the meeting. Unlike city and county governments, school districts in Minnesota are restricted by state law on their levy amounts, and that figure is determined by the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE). Fischer said MDE usually has this done by now, but not this time.

“The state has not run the levy sheets. So I don’t have one to share with you,” he said.

Esko Youth Baseball requested permission to upgrade the northernmost baseball field at the athletic complex. Originally intended as the varsity field, it fell into disuse as the high schoolers preferred another venue. Disuse led to deterioration, and even the sprinkler system has been turned off. The distance between the bases required by high school makes it unsuitable for youth baseball, but by replacing the infield grass with agricultural limestone, and making the bases moveable, the baseball association says it can turn it into a ballfield functional for all its teams.

The project is estimated to cost $25,500 and Esko Youth Baseball proposed funding 100 percent of the project, with VRM Construction Services and Hinrichs Dirt Works donating time and equipment. Some in-kind parent labor will assist with removal of the infield grass.

Fischer urged the board to approve while assuring there were professionals on the job. The vote was unanimous in favor.

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