It's important to clear up some misconceptions that have been presented in previous Open Forum letters regarding the March 12 school bond referendum. First, maintaining Washington Middle School and Franklin Junior High is no longer cost-effective for taxpayers. Just bringing these buildings up to current health and safety standards would cost at least $12.7 million over the next five years, and that would not include any remodeling to make the classrooms large enough to meet other state guidelines. The health and safety dollars could be levied without a public vote.
Second, while building smaller middle level schools would be desirable, the school board determined this district could not afford to build multiple middle level schools. Instead, we feel building one large educational structure that houses four smaller schools within a school is the best plan. The two-story structure would be built for heating and cooling efficiency, which would save the district thousands of dollars in utility costs over having several smaller structures. In addition, it would be easier to coordinate human resources for student such as counseling, administration, special education and fine arts in one larger building. In response to concerns to building on wetlands, the new school would be located on high ground within the 181-acre site.
Third, no neighborhood elementary schools will be closed because of this bond referendum. The elementary schools would be less crowded, though, by having their fifth-graders move into the new middle level building, where they would be physically separated from other grade levels. Having all of the district's fifth through eighth-graders on one site would, however, allow purposeful interaction between students such as mentoring and leadership opportunities.
Finally, all eligible voters have an opportunity to be informed and have their voice heard -- especially in this day of high tech communication. Absentee ballots are available to any voters who cannot vote in person on March 12. Many informational sessions have been scheduled regarding the bond referendum. Call the District 181 office at 828-5300 if you want to get information on upcoming meetings. Also, feel free to contact any school board member with your questions.
(Gmeinder is chair of the Brainerd School Board.)
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