School board looking at facility optionsThe Red Wing School Board looked again at options to improve existing facilities during its quarterly workshop Wednesday night.
By: Sarah Gorvin, The Republican Eagle
The Red Wing School Board looked again at options to improve existing facilities during its quarterly workshop Wednesday night. Still, no definite decisions were made.
If board members decide to go out for an operating referendum during the November general election, they most likely also would ask for approval of a facilities bond.
The bond would cover costs for maintenance projects that have been delayed, such as a new roof and a new parking lot at the high school and updated heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.
The district also wants to address space issues, especially at Sunnyside Elementary School, which is filled to capacity.
With the help of community input gathered during two public meetings in May, Minneapolis-based architecture firm DLR Group has put together four options for the board to consider:
• Add on to Burnside Elementary School so that it can comfortably hold second through fourth grades;
• Add on to Burnside to accommodate kindergarten through second grade; switch Sunnyside to third and fourth grades;
• Add on to Burnside to house grades kindergarten through fourth; repurpose Sunnyside for pre-kindergarten programs;
• Create neighborhood schools out of both Sunnyside and Burnside, each housing grades kindergarten through four.
Each of the four options includes renovations to Twin Bluff Middle School to reconfigure the administration area and improve entry security. These renovations were deemed a “no-brainer” at the community meetings.
The options cost anywhere from $4.6 million to $11 million.
A representative from DLR told board members Wednesday that they could also choose any combination of the four options.
Board member Heidi Jones said she was most excited by the option that would consolidate all elementary grades at Burnside.
Board member Mike Christensen questioned that option, calling it an “odd-ball” system to have the district’s major hubs — the high school and elementary school — be so far apart from each other.
Another community meeting has been scheduled for July 9 to help narrow down the options so that DLR can make a recommendation to the board. At the end of his presentation, the DLR representative asked the board to come up with a target budget for the project.
About the last half hour of the four-hour workshop was given to the discussion of the district’s operating referendum.
The current five-year referendum expires during the 2014-2015 school year. That means that the district must get a new operating referendum approved during 2013 at the latest. If the operating referendum isn’t renewed, the district would lose about $4 million, which could lead to cuts.
To put a referendum on the ballot this November, the district must file by Aug. 24.
However, there are still plenty of decisions to be made before that deadline. The district needs to decide whether it simply wants a renewal of the existing referendum or to ask for an increase.
How long the new referendum should run for is another question that needs to be answered.
“At least with a five-year (referendum), every five years, you’ve got to come back to the public, come clean and explain what you’re doing,” Board chair Mitch Boldt said.
Jones argued that a five-year referendum is too short.
“We ought to (interact with the public) all the time, not just in front of a referendum,” she said. “I’d consider seven. … Five is really tight.”
If the board decides against the November 2012 vote, the only chance to get a referendum passed would be in 2013.