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Close vote on Verndale school addition could set up another in 2013

Defeated by 48 votes in their bid for a $3.995 million addition to the Verndale School, 15-20 "Vote Yes" supporters, both young and old, dropped in on the Sept. 20 meeting of the District 818 board.

The supporters would like to see another vote on the issue. The board will be meeting with representatives of R.A. Morton, the building contractor that proposed the plan, the week of Sept. 10, Verndale Superintendent Paul Brownlow said.

"It's my understanding they are planning a day for me to come up and meet with their board, R.A. Morton President Preston Euerle said. "Anytime there is a vote that isn't approved, there are some questions that have to be answered."

Euerle predicted a close vote on the issue, but believed it had a good chance.

"Before this one, nine of 11 school votes had passed on the first vote," Euerle said.

State law stipulates the board must wait 180 days if there is no change to the building bond. If there was a change of 5 percent or more, the vote could be taken 40 days after the Nov. 6 general election.

If there is no change in the bond, the earliest a second vote could be taken would be mid-February.

"I believe it will be after the first of the year," "Vote Yes" supporter Brenda Weniger said. "It just needs to be put out there that it is not about a gym."

Weniger, who acted as spokesperson for the group attending the school board meeting, sees a great need for more room and upgrading the facilities within the school.

"It's also about a compatible heating system and ventilation," Weniger said.

Another area of concern is the auditorium, which also serves as a gym and a cafeteria.

"Our cafeteria is the same size as it was when it was built," Weniger said.

Weniger also pointed out that the seating for up to 900 fans in the new gym is only a possibility, not a certainty. The community-led task force that recommended the project for a vote only looked at a gym that could seat up to 900.

Verndale presently has a big gym a smaller gym, which is part of the auditorium. Under the present conditions, some physical education classes are now meeting in the hallways. Both Brownlow and Weniger also pointed out that in certain kinds of weather, kids cannot go outside to exercise.

On top of the space issues, Weniger said Verndale has never had such a large student body. Half of all Verndale's K-12 students - projected at more than 470 this fall - are open enrolled.

Before changes can be made, some district voters will have to change their votes.

"It's a domino effect," Weniger said.