As I write this it is November 9th, the day after the election; as we move past the craziness of the election, it is a good time to look to the future. To that end, it seems an opportune time to share with you the preliminary results of the survey we conducted regarding the possible renovation of the HS gym and associated areas. The final results of the survey will be presented to the board on November 21, 2016 at our regularly scheduled meeting at Almena elementary; this information will also be posted on our district website as well.
Strictly in terms of statistics, the first question of “Would you support the district exploring a capital referendum to renovate the high school gym at this time?” yielded 442 “yes” responses, 219 “no” responses, and 119 “undecided” responses. The second question of “Would you support a $7 million referendum for the plan as described above?” yielded 249 “definitely yes” responses, 212 “probably yes” responses, 119 “undecided” responses, 67 “probably no” responses, and 187 “definitely no” responses. In addition to the information indicated above, there were also district effectiveness, communication, and demographic questions asked which will be shared at the board meeting as well as posted on the web site after our November board meeting. Another important aspect of the survey was the comments that were provided by numerous folks who completed the survey. In evaluating the comments, some consistent themes began to emerge including- focus on academics, some confusion over our last referendum and what it is to be used for, the possibility of a weight room, our current locker rooms at the high school, and finally handicap access.
To address some of these emerging trends, I offer the following: Our district’s focus on academics is our primary focus without question. We have invested a significant degree of time, money, and resources to evaluate and modify our existing programs to continue on a path towards educational excellence. Our work in this area is never done, however our focus is and will remain first and foremost on academics and opportunities for our kids. One of the reasons why academics seem to take a “back seat” to athletics and/or facilities is because of the very visual nature of those items. Any community member can drive by the school or visit and see firsthand renovated facilities or classrooms and/or athletic events occurring; these too are important aspects of our schools however are not held in higher regard than our primary responsibility of educating students. If you do not have students currently in school it is very difficult to see (if not impossible) what our focus on academics actually looks like.
As far as the last referendum is concerned, this was an operational referendum which can be used by the board to run the district as they direct; this may take the form of building renovations as is our plan OR it can be used to simply operate the district and to maintain programming and staffing levels. The plans for the operational referendum as outlined previously are to address the South wing of the HS through renovating areas like technology education, band, choir, agricultural education, art, etc.; however, due to the fact that this is an operational referendum, it is possible that by the time the 2021-2022 school year rolls around, the district will have to use those dollars simply for general operation depending upon the State budgets leading up until then. This referendum, if the question is asked, would be to issue debt which can ONLY be used for the purpose outlined (e.g. the proposed modifications to the HS gym and associated area). Once the debt is incurred on the front end, the district would make payments each year until the “loan” is paid off.
In looking at the suggested design and the possibility of a weight room, the board has indicated that the area identified as the “multi-purpose room” on the proposed plan could certainly be used for a weight room. With respect to the existing locker rooms- we all agree that they are too small as a result of the cut backs many years ago, but to address them in any meaningful fashion would require more dollars due to their location in the HS. Basically, they are “land-locked” between existing spaces and would require increasing the existing building footprint to a significant degree. This was discussed, but the dollar amount to address it was a concern for the board.
Lastly with respect to handicap access and the proposed changes- since it is now 2016, we are obligated to provide adequate handicap accessible facilities as outlined in building code whenever we do construction or renovation of an area. Since the existing gym is from around 1956, it is lacking in many aspects of current code and will therefore be brought up to code through this process if it in fact occurs. There will be handicap accessible restrooms, bleachers, ramps, etc. that all must be part of the new design if this project takes place.
As indicated above, the board will evaluate the results of this survey at the November 21st board meeting in Almena which will provide them an opportunity to process the results as well as suggest changes prior to deciding whether or not a referendum question will be asked in the spring.
As always, please feel free to contact me at any time.
Craig G. Broeren
715-537-5612 ext. 402