Guest Editorial

Editor’s Note: Luverne Public School officials hosted seven public presentations July 5 through 11 at various locations. The presentations outlined the proposed educational improvements. Below is a summary of those sessions.

 

By Craig Oftedahl

The Board of Education at ISD 2184 is exploring the possibility of upgrading and improving the buildings on the existing campus.

A long-range facilities plan is the result of working with an independent educational facilities consulting firm. They helped district officials to examine the current buildings and blend the improvement suggestions from local staff, student and community interviews with state education requirements.

The result is a series of reports now available on the district website www.isd2184.net. Also available is the power point presentation from the public meetings.

The elementary school is already 20 years old and the cost of its construction will be paid in full this upcoming school year.

The middle school/high school facility opened its doors in 1956.

Both buildings are currently in good shape and have been maintained extremely well.

However, continued safety and health upgrades are necessary for the 60-year-old middle/high school building to meet the standards outlined by the Minnesota Department of Education and other agencies.

This work is estimated at $8 million to complete.

With the passage of the Ag2School legislation in St. Paul this spring, this $8 million would result in a tax neutral impact to property owners within the district.

On average, the school district receives $296 annually on a home with an estimated market value of $100,000.

This amount is the lowest in the area when compared to neighboring school districts. The state average is $366 for a home of the same value.

For our agricultural community, the $8 million levy would decrease current taxes by an estimated $2.4 million due to the new tax relief legislation.

For instance a $10,000 acre of non-homesteaded land would decrease by $2.37.

The long-range plan also makes educational improvements to both buildings.

Under the proposed long-range plan, the new construction, remodel, and refreshed portions of the two buildings would have a $16 million price tag.

Here are some highlights of what would be done:

•The middle/high school kitchen and cafeteria will be moved to the main floor and create an open commons area.

This new construction would be located between the current elementary and middle/high school buildings.

•The media center would also be relocated from its current second-floor location near the new commons.

•The music department would see a dramatic improvement in space.

The new fine arts space would be located near the new kitchen/commons areas and would have small practice room areas, more storage for equipment and uniforms, and larger classrooms to seat the greater number of students involved in the choir and band programs.

•Classroom space would be brought up to Minnesota Department of Education guidelines and have more collaborative spaces for individualized and interdisciplinary learning.

•Special education space will be added and the entire building will be modernized with new lockers, wall coverings, furniture and technology.

•Community Education will be expanded to handle the growing trend of early childhood education.

•The District Office will be relocated as will the high school office area.

•Additional classrooms will be added to the elementary school to accommodate larger classes and greater special education needs.

The $16 million in proposed improvements will increase property taxes if voters pass the referendum this fall.

On a $100,000 valued home, the school levy would increase $43 and a $10,000 acre of non-homesteaded land would increase $2.08. The ag community would receive a tax relief of $4.8 million if the project was approved this fall.

During the community feedback sessions in February, there was significant interest in a new performing arts center.

The proposed new facility would be located near the fine arts space and would add an additional $7 million to the project.

The performing arts center could be a real asset to the district and community as a great gathering place for various functions.

The tax impact of the performing arts center is an additional $25 annually on a home valued at $100,000. A $10,000 acre of non-homesteaded land would increase $2.08. Tax credit would be $2.1 million on ag land.

Because the district has maintained the facilities, the upgrades and renovations being considered are less costly than constructing a new building.

With the current square footage, the replacement cost would likely be between $90 and $100 million if the district had to replace the entire campus.

The idea behind the long-range facilities plan is to continue the excellent education and educational facility for the next half century.

Craig Oftedahl is superintendent of Luverne Public Schools.

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