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Verndale board approves five priorities for building project

With student enrollment inching steadily toward the 500 mark, the Verndale School Board took action Monday to clear up the requirements of a proposed building addition.

The full board approved a committee report, prepared by Board Members Jeremy Schwartz, Shyla Hess and Chris Youngbauer, which identified the school's top five priorities as being special education classrooms, kindergarten and elementary classrooms/intervention space, gym and locker rooms, kitchen and dining space and high school class rooms/intervention space.

Verndale Superintendent Paul Brownlow said the board's approval of the recommendation will give building contractor R.A. Morton of St. Cloud and architect SGN/Wendel of Minneapolis priorities in designing an addition to the present school building.

The building task force will be looking at building plans based on the new priorities in meetings Feb. 8 and Feb. 15. Brownlow said the board's goal at this point is to have the matter ready for a board decision by early April. If the board votes to hold a second vote on the building bond addition, Brownlow said he would expect that vote to be held in late May or June.

Brownlow said task force members did a walk-through of the building after the Christmas break and saw all the identifying needs, adding that these were summarized by R.A. Morton representative Preston Euerle. School staff members also went through the building and were asked for their opinions.

Brownlow said taking visitors through the building while students were around made a substantial impact.

The enrollment of the school district was officially 493 Wednesday, up 27 students from the school's enrollment last May and 23 more students than Brownlow's projections before the beginning of the school year in September.

The board also continued to pursue the idea of alternative financing for an addition. Board member Bill Blaha said he liked the idea of open enrollment funds being used toward an addition.

"Part of what is driving us out of our current walls is open enrollment," Blaha told the board.

Blaha wanted board members to be comfortable with the other ideas before proceeding.

"I know there is still very much open-mindedness from at least a portion of the task force that does not put 100 percent of the burden on the ag land, but then again the same voices would ask 'But what is going to be the most cost effective?'" Schwartz said.