Request to public for ideas to mitigate space issues at ISD 518 results in familiar questions, comments

WORTHINGTON - The Worthington District 518 School Board set aside 30 minutes of a work session on Monday night to hear suggestions from the community regarding how to handle the space issues within the district, and although 11 people stepped forward to speak, there were no new recommendations or ideas brought forward, only a reiteration of comments and questions that have already been asked and answered.

Of the 11 people who spoke, several urged the board to bring forth another referendum, preferably in November. Those who had been in opposition to a new school already asked the board to change architects again, or asked why additions couldn't be added to the existing schools.

Trey Davis, who reported having lunch at Prairie Elementary with his son recently, said he saw no problem with space issues in the cafeteria. He said he doesn't think the growth projections the school is using are accurate. He added the city is not growing as fast as the schools are reporting, and that he sees no new businesses in town.  He said he would like to see a second opinion from another firm and take another look at building additions.

David Bosma said that while he hoped further discussion would be fruitful, the situation has been caused by the community's lack of trust in the board, which he attributes to the district's $3 million land purchase. The only solution, he said, is to terminate contracts with the firm the school has been working with and start over, which he acknowledged would cost money, but added, "So does holding elections each year with no results."

One man who said he has attended plenty of school board meetings, Myron Bickness, pointed out that Runnings has just put up a new building for $5.5 million, which the school could do and just add hallways and a ceiling.

Those who sided with holding another referendum in the fall thanked the school board and the staff and teachers for their continued efforts, and advocated for another chance at the polls, with Jason Turner stating the past is water under the bridge.

"We have to invest in our community, which is what someone else did for all of us," he stated.

Lois Kester came forward to say it was time to stop blaming the woes of the district on Superintendent John Landgaard.

"The accusations against him at unfair," she said. "He has been a good steward of our money. We're stuck on this and that doesn't fix the problem. "

She also pointed out that adding on to the buildings won't solve the problem, because there still wouldn't be enough gym space, core space or enough bathrooms.

After the half hour public comment, the board went into a work session, and discussed whether or not to do another population study. No decision was made.

Regarding switching to another architectural firm, the board explained that a request for proposals was sent out several years ago to do a facilities study, and a firm chosen from several that were submitted. Part of the RFP was that the firm that did the study could not be the same firm to be hired as architectural consultants. As Board Chair Brad Shaffer pointed out, the firm that did the study had no monetary incentive to create a problem the district would have to solve.

Board member Joel Lorenz told the board and audience that there are too many ridiculous personal and nitpicking issues happening, and if one more referendum doesn't pass, the board needs to look into lease levy options. A lease levy does not require a community vote, nor does it give the Ag2School tax credit to farmers. Lorenz the district cannot keep running referendums time and time again, so after one more try, the district should just have a Plan B in place and move forward.

The district used a lease levy on the ALC/Gymnastics building.

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