Wrenshall School District residents will cast their votes Tuesday, April 18, on a $12.5 million building bond referendum that would bring renovations and new construction to the small preK-12 school if the referendum passes.
The vote will take place in the school recreation building from noon to 8 p.m. April 18. Residents have also been voting absentee at the County Auditor's office in the courthouse at 305 Walnut Ave., Carlton, during working hours. The Auditor's office will also be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, April 15, and until 5 p.m. Monday, April 17.
The ballot question asks for a "yes" or "no" answer to the following question:
Shall the Board of Independent School No. 100 be authorized to issue its general obligation school building bonds in an amount not to exceed $12,500,000 to provide funds for the acquisition and betterment of school sites and facilities, including the renovation, repair, remodeling, upgrading and construction of additions and improvements to the existing PK-12 school site and facility, the demolition of the existing Recreation Building and the construction of a dedicated bus loading area and paved parking areas?
The current school building can house up to 500 students, although when it was built elementary numbers were lower, affecting capacity now as different age groups need different types of spaces. New construction will add space for another 100 students.
A 48,433-square-foot addition would be located on the north end of the existing structure and would house a fitness center and community health classrooms, two full-size basketball courts, locker rooms and ancillary spaces as well as a kitchen, cafeteria and commons area with a handicap-accessible entrance that, along with the relocation of district offices near the entryway, would facilitate a secure building entrance.
The building footprint would go from 133,479 square feet to nearly 182,000. Some other proposals include expanding the metal and wood shop, creating a computer assisted drafting lab, and building new classrooms along with the new cafeteria and gym.
About $70,000 would be earmarked for updating technology at the school. The school's PA system — which is how school lockdowns are announced — needs to be replaced, and the phone system no longer meets the state's requirements for location information if a 911 call is made from the school. Parking areas would be paved, a safer entrance and new office area constructed and a new bus drop-off area implemented.
The plan — approved by the state — calls for Wrenshall district homeowners to pay $270 more per year on a home valued at $150,000, for 20 years.
Additionally, the district is proposing a $1 million wellness center, which voters will not weigh in on, financed through the lease levy. The district is seeking a financial partner for that, which could lower the cost.
The issue of open enrollment — 40 percent of Wrenshall's students don't live in the school district — has been an issue with local residents, many who think the district should cap open enrollment and argue that the parents of those students won't share the burden of increased taxes since they don't live in the district. Others argue that the open-enrolled students bring in money to the school district, close to $1 million in state funds annually, according to Superintendent Kim Belcastro.
Many residents also think the Wrenshall and Carlton school districts need to continue discussing consolidation. Belcastro said the building renovations could still work with a future consolidation.
Editor's note: Find more past stories on this issue and opinion pieces at www.pinejournal.com along with more letters to the editor on Pages A4-A5 of this week's Pine Journal. The school district website (www.wrenshall.k12.mn.us) also contains videos and more information along with past issues of the images school newsletter.