Earlier this week Staples-Motley School District held four community meetings regarding the April 13 bond referendum for $64.4 million. While we were able to meet with many community members and answer their questions, we know that others may not have made it out due to COVID-19 precautions.
Please find below the most frequently asked questions during our community meetings. The answers to these questions and other information about the upcoming referendum are on SMTimetoRise.com, and as always, please reach out to the District Office with any questions 218-894-5400.
- What’s different about this referendum?
Our district has worked hard to bring a community-driven plan forward for voters to consider. Here’s how the April 13 referendum is different:
- This plan is driven by what our communities value and our stakeholders’ input. It focuses on well rounded education by making balanced investments across the district while emphasizing career and technical education (CTE), fine arts and extracurriculars. It also realigns our grade organization to be more age-appropriate.
- This plan is in alignment with our Continuous Improvement Plan (CIP), which was developed by more than 100 community members, educators, students and parents. This strategic plan guides everything the district does.
- Instead of building a new, single school, this plan reinvests in two of our current facilities. Every space will be renewed or renovated.
- The focus of this plan is based on the district’s commitment to our students and community feedback. There is no second question on the ballot that goes beyond the district’s needs.
- This bond referendum addresses all of our deferred maintenance needs and provides a long-term investment for generations to come.
- If the referendum fails, there is a board-approved Plan B that would only address a portion of our deferred maintenance. Plan B will still raise taxes, does not require voter approval, and will require additional, ongoing investments in the future.
- Why does the district have so much deferred maintenance?
Our maintenance staff has done an admirable job of keeping our schools in the best condition possible with our maintenance budget. However, our maintenance budgets are restricted within our overall district budget, and we must prioritize those funds on the most urgent projects each and every year. Many portions of our facilities have served us long past their life expectancy, and repair needs have accelerated beyond maintenance budget capacity — this is why all of our neighboring school districts have passed referenda in recent years. Without significant renovations, costs will continue to outpace the available resources to repair or replace them.
- What are the educational benefits of the plan?
We are making the investments that are needed for teachers to succeed with every student, whether their goal is to be college-ready or career-ready. To do this, we need our classrooms to reflect how teachers teach today.The plan addresses all of our core academic, co-curricular and extra-curricular areas. The plan provides significant improvements that provide the optimal learning environment, specifically collaborative spaces that emphasize hands-on learning. Additionally, improved labs for career and technical education (CTE) and culinary arts lab would provide students with hands-on experiences needed for succeeding in and beyond our classrooms. Improvements to our choir, orchestra and band rooms would broaden the capabilities of our music programs, providing students with new opportunities to continue to excel in the fine arts.
- Why now?
The COVID-19 pandemic reaffirmed what we already knew: students learn best in the classroom. We want to ensure that our students receive the education they need to be successful lifelong learners in whatever they choose to pursue, and renovating our aging buildings to improve in-person learning would help us do that. If the plan is approved by voters in April, the district could move forward with securing the project bonds at historically low interest rates. The impacts of COVID-19 on other local/regional projects means labor is widely available. The proposed project would provide work for Minnesota workers and businesses, including local contractors.
- Why did you conduct meetings in an open-house style format?
Community meetings were held in an open-house format to allow residents to come and go at their own pace and to account for maximum COVID-19 safety. This format also allowed for more community members to have their questions answered directly, allowing the district to address individual concerns regarding specific circumstances, such as tax questions regarding individual parcels.
- Why does a district with declining enrollment need additions?
This plan is about aligning our facilities to our district core values and priorities. These values and priorities will give every individual student the skills and environment they need to be successful. This plan will leave us with more efficient schools that meet state learning standards and help our teachers better prepare students for their futures. Each and every space will see renovations to bring them up to date for modern learning, health and safety. It will realign our grade structures so that students are in facilities that offer the best educational opportunities for their ages.
- Why does the plan relocate the entry to the Middle/High School building?
This major design change provides separation of parent and bus drop off for safety and security purposes. This move also allows for increased parking near the front entrance, a challenge in our current building layout.
- Will ventilation/filtration be addressed?
New ventilation will be added or replaced throughout our facilities to ensure we are addressing indoor air quality for the health and well being of all our staff, students and community members.
- Will there be enough parking for events and how will parking be added?
Parking spaces are being relocated for better access to our entrances. There are funds budgeted for land acquisition to increase parking if necessary. If increased parking is not needed, these funds could be used to buy down the bond.
- Will the Centennial Auditorium receive any renovations?
As part of the bond referendum project, the Centennial Auditorium will see ADA compliance upgrades as well as finished performance features such as the orchestra pit and sound system.
- How do I know the district will not ask for more in the future?
If the referendum passes, this investment in our facilities will better equip the district to meet the educational needs of our students for generations to come, while providing operating efficiencies right away.
If the referendum doesn’t pass, the school board has passed a resolution to move forward with Plan B – a plan that only addresses a portion of the deferred maintenance of the district. With Plan B there will be additional, ongoing investments required to meet the educational and deferred maintenance needs of the district, which in turn will have a recurring tax impact on district residents.
- What is so different about education that we need updated facilities?
We have great teachers who do their best with the outdated spaces they have. We want to give our students the best opportunity to be successful in our classrooms and beyond by providing the modern and collaborative learning spaces that better align with today’s workforce needs.
- What are you going to do with the Motley school building?
Only 30% of the existing Motley building is currently being utilized as the Early Education Center. As we look at our current and future educational needs, the school board thinks the best plan for students and taxpayers is to have two facilities.
After local voters approve the referendum, the school board will take the appropriate next steps to transition the Motley building to a new owner. The district has agreed to provide Lakewood Health System first opportunity for continued use of the Motley facility if desired. We believe the building will be of interest as a future community asset, but not likely as a school building.