Esko students rally in support of referendums

Esko High School student Brock Anderson, 18, had just arrived home from a soccer game in Hibbing on Tuesday night following a 4-0 victory over the Bluejackets. He laughed about the fact the team bus was understandably a bit boisterous on the way ...

Esko High School student Brock Anderson, 18, had just arrived home from a soccer game in Hibbing on Tuesday night following a 4-0 victory over the Bluejackets. He laughed about the fact the team bus was understandably a bit boisterous on the way home after a long day and a shutout victory.

"Some of the younger kids are getting a chance to play, and we're building a really respectable team," Anderson commented.

And yet, even at that point in the day he was still eager to sit back and talk about the school district's proposed referendum votes that will be on the Nov. 6 ballot.

"I really want to help inform voters about the issues at hand," he said.

Anderson, 18, is a senior this year. Since he and his twin sister will be graduating in the spring, he said they have nothing personal to gain if either or both of the district's proposed referendums pass in November. But Anderson is passionate nonetheless about seeing that happen.


"I've grown up in Esko since 1997, and this has always been a place where you could get a great education and all the opportunities in the world for sports," said Anderson. "I would hate to see that go downhill. And yet, we're 334th out of the state's 337 districts [in what we generate per student in revenue]."

Anderson went on to point out the district had to cut $90,000 out of its budget last spring, which he said amounts to the cost of approximately two jobs.

"It's our teachers who really make the school," he said, "and I would hate to see any of them lose their jobs because of further cuts to the budget. That sort of thing really hurts."

The Esko School Board voted in August to put two separate referendums on this fall's ballot. The first will ask voters to approve a $341,000 operating levy that will increase the district's general education revenue by $341 per pupil unit for the next nine years. The additional revenue would be used to finance day-to-day school operations.

Anderson said after last fall's proposed operating referendum failed to pass, he began to take a real interest in seeing a new operating levy proposed for this year.

"I decided I wanted to help to educate other kids and adults about how really big this is for our area," he explained. "I want to be able to take pride in our school, especially given our great academic history. I want others to be able to benefit from the same sorts of opportunities I had. They have earned the right to see that happen."

The district's second proposal asks voters to support the issue of general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed $2.7 million to improve the district's 40-year-old sports facilities, including a new football/soccer field and athletic track with handicapped accessible bleachers, the addition of venues for new track and field events, a new concession building and public restrooms, the upgrade of the current junior varsity baseball field and the addition of a second field for softball, a locker room for football, soccer and youth hockey, and space for the development by the youth soccer association.

While Anderson admits that passage of the operating referendum ranks high on his priority list, he said it would also benefit the district greatly if the bonding to support the athletic improvements passes. He has participated on both the soccer and track teams, and pointed out that the school's track program has made it to the state meet multiple times.


"It's embarrassing that such a highly prestigious track team can't even host its own meets," Anderson commented, referring to the fact the surface of the outdated track was long ago prohibited from use for competition by the Minnesota State High School League. "And when I think about football games, I think about high energy games under the lights with bleachers full of fans. That's what the football tradition is all about. But now we're having to play our Homecoming game at 4 p.m. in the afternoon, with no lights and no bleachers. It's just not the same."

Late last fall brackets attaching the lights to one of the poles on the Esko football field detached and left the lights dangling by an electrical cable. A crew dispatched to repair the situation claimed it was a safety hazard to reattach the lights.

After another light blew off one of the poles in the wind in the spring, both Minnesota Power and Musco Lighting Company deemed the poles unsafe and a decision was made to cut down all four poles.

Later in the spring, H&B, a certification company from Eden Prairie, Minn., refused to certify the field's bleachers as safe.

"There are too many variables throughout the entire structure that come into play that, when the bleachers are loaded with fans, a catastrophic failure could happen within the framework of the bleacher and/or the press box,"

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