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School site visits wrapping up

School Board member Mark Ryan (left) and Twin Bluff Middle School Principal Chris Palmatier look over facility options during Thursday's meeting of the Red Wing Public Schools Facility Task Force. (Republican Eagle photo by John R. Russett)

Schools have been toured, district needs have been discussed and, after nine meetings of the Red Wing Public Schools Facility Task Force, the first step in the process is complete.

The group of community members, faculty, staff and administration met Thursday night in the Twin Bluff Middle School Information Media Center to solidify recommendations for moving forward with the district’s facilities.

Supt. Karsten Anderson said it’s important to follow a thorough process in determining where the district should focus its attention and the work done by the task force so far has helped illuminate some of the district’s building issues.

Throughout the first step, Anderson said, specific facility and site maintenance needs have surfaced, along with the recognition of space needs for early childhood care as well as the need to accommodate current Sunnyside Elementary and Burnside Elementary programs.

Some task force members Thursday said the district and the city might work together to generate better demographic information. This would include projected class sizes for children currently birth to age 4 and open enrollment trends.

With the help of the task force, Gary Benson of Kraus-Anderson said his firm will put together a report covering the initial nine meetings and bring it before the School Board this summer.

The superintendent said if everything goes according to plan, the board will have the report for the second meeting in July and then conduct a work-study session in August to determine the next steps.

Regardless of where the board lands, Anderson said he is confident the community will be involved in the decision-making process.

“We know we have a lot more work to do,” he said. “We want to engage the community every step of the way.”

Colvill Family Center Director Min MartinOakes echoed those sentiments.

“Until we know what the voters would support, it’s hard to move forward in a meaningful way,” she said.

Sheila Beckner, Burnside Elementary principal, said while it’s important to take a pragmatic approach to the district’s long-term facility needs there are issues that need to be addressed in the near future.

“We’ve been short on space for a number of years now,” Beckner said, adding the district can address some of the immediate needs while still planning for the future.

The group might reconvene for one more meeting before bringing its recommendations before the board in July. The potential for more task force meetings in the fall have yet to be determined.

John R. Russett

John Russett is a regional reporter for RiverTown Multimedia, covering a variety of issues facing RiverTown communities. Previously, he worked at the Red Wing Republican Eagle, where he reported on education as well as crime and courts. 

You can follow him on Twitter at @JohnRyanRussett


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