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An overview of building task force proceedings

Dear district residents:

Verndale School’s building task force has met five times since November to determine the school district’s building needs. These meetings were in addition to the six meetings that were held prior to the referendum that failed in August. As a result, the group had time to review the identified needs and develop a building plan that addressed a majority of the needs.

During the first meeting, the task force reviewed the reasons for the first referendum failing. Different opinions were shared by the group, but the lack of public information on the first building project was cited as one of the biggest reasons for the project being voted down by the district residents. 

With the continued growth in student enrollment, the school board wanted the group to consider three different options for addressing the space needs. The options presented were consolidation/pairing, capping open enrollment and/or addressing the space issues with a building project. The final determination of the group was a building project.

Prior to the second meeting, the staff completed a building needs survey, the architect identified the building needs and the task force took a tour of the building while school was in session. This process was enlightening for many of the task force members. Many of them were surprised to see how every square foot of the building is being used to its maximum capacity. At the conclusion of the second meeting, the group listed areas of priority that needed to be considered.

In preparation for the third meeting, the task force members were to prioritize their top five building needs. The school board was asked give their top five needs as a group. The needs in priority order were as follows: 1. special education 2. elementary classrooms 3. Gymnasium 4. kitchen/dining 5. high school classrooms.

The task force priorities, including the results from the school board, were collected and had the following results: 1. Gymnasium 2. special education 3. kitchen/dining 4. elementary classrooms 5. high school classrooms.

From that point, the group started to focus on a plan that would resolve the building space issues and meet the needs of the building and our students.

The fourth and fifth meetings were used to develop and tweak a plan that would meet the prioritized needs. In the end, four different options were reviewed and considered for the final project plan. The group emphasized that doing the project right the first time was important to them. 

The fifth meeting was also used to hear which financing option would be the best for the project. Several different options and combinations of options were considered and investigated by the financing consultants, administration and school board. After careful and thoughtful review, it was determined that a combination of general obligation and capital facilities bonds was the most favorable financing option.

The bond referendum to be considered on a May 30, 2013, referendum election will be for $4.95 million, with the school district covering the remaining $815,000 in project cost using capital facilities bonds. The district will use money from the general fund over a 15-year period to cover the capital facilities bonds. This will reduce the tax impact on the school district’s taxpayers. 

The feedback from the failed August referendum referenced the lack of information shared about the project, the project costs and the tax impact on district residents. As a result, the school district will be putting all of the meeting information on the school district’s website, including weekly updates and information in the local papers and holding numerous building tours and public meetings.

As always, the school district wants to ensure that our stakeholders are informed and satisfied with the educational product provided to all of the students. Please feel free contact me with any questions regarding the building project or our school.

Paul Brownlow, Verndale School Superintendent