The past year has been the most difficult of all my years in education, but the students, staff and families of Staples-Motley Schools have done a fantastic job of handling every challenge thrown their way.

Since the start of the new year, we have been energized by our middle and high school students’ return to the classroom. While the situation is ever-changing, we’re working hard to provide students with as “normal” of a learning experience as we can. As we head towards the spring, we will continue to follow all state health guidelines to keep our students and staff safe.

The pandemic has been a stark reminder of the value of in-person learning for our students. In that spirit, we must make sure our students have a quality and healthy learning environment that will help them reach their potential. Unfortunately, the condition of our school buildings poses a significant challenge as we look beyond the pandemic.

The average age of our buildings is 50 years, with the oldest portions of the middle/high school predating World War II. Education was much different than it is today. Many of our facilities no longer meet many state health, safety and space standards for learning. Our maintenance teams have done a great job of making sure we get the most out of our buildings, but their decline has reached a point where infrastructure repairs cannot be addressed with our current maintenance budget.

To make sure our school buildings can serve students today and in the years ahead, the Staples-Motley School Board has put forward a bond referendum seeking $64.38 million to reinvest in our school buildings. If residents approve the plan when they vote on April 13, both the existing elementary school and middle/high school would be renovated and expanded, and the early education center would be sold. The elementary school would be expanded to accommodate grades pre-K-6, while the middle/high school would transition to serve grades 7-12.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

The elementary school would see a new grade configuration that is developmentally appropriate, based on the feedback from our stakeholders. As part of this realignment, it would see some expansions in order to bring our early education, fifth and sixth grade students into the facility. The additions would feature new classrooms and collaborative learning spaces as well as a music room and new gymnasium. Further, an updated kitchen and cafeteria space would be included in the renovations, putting an end to the inefficient practice of preparing meals at the middle/high school and having them delivered to elementary students.

At the middle/high school, the building would be expanded to create adequate learning space to support career and technical education, high school athletics and fine arts. A new shop space and an outdoor build yard would provide resources for technical education, and new practice rooms for band and choir would be added adjacent to the existing auditorium. New and renovated athletic spaces would be grouped together for efficiency and security.

At both locations, infrastructure improvements would focus on improving the health, safety and efficiency of the buildings. All spaces would see renovations and be updated to meet accessibility requirements for those with disabilities. Entrances would be updated to make our buildings more secure. Outdated heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems, roofing and windows would be replaced to improve indoor air quality and energy efficiency. These improvements would save the district an estimated $324,000 a year in operating costs.

Regarding taxpayer impact, a residential home with a median value of $125,000 would see a property tax increase of approximately $23.50 per month beginning in 2022. Residents can calculate the estimated effects on their property by using the tax calculator that we’ve included on the referendum website, SMTimeToRise.com.

Our schools are an important part of our local communities, so we want to do everything we can to help residents make an informed vote.

If you have any questions or ideas, I hope you will reach out to me at shane.tappe@isd2170.k12.mn.us or 218-894-5400.

Thank you for your support.

Shane Tappe is the Staples-Motley Public School District Superintendent.