Long-term Facilities Planning

Long-term Facilities Planning Update
Posted on 01/21/2020
Long-term Facilities Planning Update

In December, the Montevideo School Board approved a Review and Comment document to be submitted to the Minnesota Department of Education for consideration. This document, required by the state, presents the Education Commissioner with an outline of our district’s needs, the plan to address those needs, financing information and the benefits of building referendum projects. The board’s approval of this document was a step toward holding a referendum this spring.

The district has spent nearly two years evaluating the needs of our aging school buildings. Thoughtful consideration has been put into correctly identifying these needs and how to address them. The district made it a priority to engage community members to determine their priorities. Our efforts included six internal district listening sessions, six community listening sessions, an online survey in 2018 and a scientific, mailed and online survey in the fall of 2019.

During this process, the district identified approximately $90 million in potential investments to improve our schools to better serve students. Respecting that local taxpayers must approve and fund the plan, district staff and experts have focused on the most urgent, highest-value work. We want to ensure the plan provides a high level of value for the investment by addressing the community’s top priorities.

First, our growing student population puts increased stress on our spaces. At Sanford Education Center and Ramsey Elementary School, space issues include an inadequate number of classrooms, lack of proper storage and an undersized cafeteria.

Safety and security are a top priority for community members, too. Despite the investments that have been made in creating a single entrance to each building, which is monitored via camera and intercom systems, most schools still lack the desired levels of security and supervision of entrances.

We also must address the traffic congestion around the middle school by moving the bus drop-off and pick-up to the north side of the building, which will make critical parts of the school day safer for everyone involved. Additionally, we need to make sure our facilities are safe and accessible to everyone that uses them. Portions of our buildings don’t meet Federal Accessibility (ADA) standards and must be brought up to code.

Some of our buildings have aged beyond their useful life, which creates infrastructure repairs and upgrades that our current maintenance budget can’t cover. Further, school facilities aren’t equipped to support today’s curriculum needs as they lack flexible learning and collaborative spaces. The Fine Arts Center, which hasn’t been renovated since being built in 1940, regularly floods. This is deteriorating the building’s foundation and causing mold and mildew issues.

Community members were clear: while the middle school and high school each have their challenges, with investment, we can continue to use them for the foreseeable future. There was also considerable feedback that the district should return to a more educationally-appropriate grade alignment.

On January 13, the school board approved a resolution of special election in order to hold a referendum on April 14 that will ask voters to consider two questions. The first question seeks to replace Sanford Education Center and Ramsey Elementary School with a new building on a new site. It would also remodel the middle school to house five sections of grades 5-8 and increase safety. The second question would add a performing arts center and band and choir classrooms to the current high school.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks as we launch a new website to provide detailed information regarding the referendum. Also, please keep an eye out for articles in the Montevideo American-News with updates on the referendum.

In the meantime, I’m happy to answer any questions you may have.

Dr. Luther Heller
Superintendent, Montevideo Public Schools