Submitted By: Amy Dupay and Katie Carroll
In April of 2016, the St. Michael-Albertville School Board commissioned a task force to look at the needs of the school district in response to the significant growth in our community. The job of the task force was to identify immediate needs of the school district.
As members of that task force, we began with many questions and some skepticism about the school district’s decision to hold a bond referendum and wondered if the school district could stretch the existing dollars they had to fit those needs. However, as we rolled up our sleeves and worked for several months examining the wide range of the funding requests, it became clear that the school district’s request was about basic needs, not frivolous expenditures. No longer was the debate about if we should have a bond referendum, but which items should be included in it.
The challenge before us was then to prioritize the list of projects that needed funding most immediately. Our goal was to balance the needs of the school district while being fiscally responsible with the items we chose to recommend to the school board to place in the bond referendum.
As we put together our recommendation for the school board, we recognized a few basic areas that need immediate funding.
• The entrances to Albertville Primary, Middle School East, and STMA High School need upgrades to meet today’s standards for security. This will help our schools remain safe during the day for our students and staff.
• Some of the technology within STMA is a decade old. Replacing the outdated technology will give our students the tools they need to succeed as they go on to college and the workforce. Additionally, updating the district’s technological infrastructure will improve reliability.
• Smart and responsible financial planning now will save money and allow for needed changes and basic improvements for buildings and facilities.
o Because of anticipated growth in the number of after-school programs based on enrollment increases, consolidating the location of activities to the high school campus is a cost-effective option. This will allow for activities to occur there year-round for students and community members regardless of weather conditions. Additionally, this will lower the need for high school students, who are relatively new to driving, from having to travel far from campus for extra-curricular activities. By having a multi-purpose facility on the high school campus, we can save money in the long run given the rising cost of building supplies.
o The middle school pool, which is used nearly every day, needs urgent repairs to continue to be a safe and healthy facility for students and the public.
o Addressing energy efficiency needs, like replacing lights, will result in significant savings to the school district.
• With the rapid population growth in our community, we may not have enough classroom space for students. In order to avoid overcrowding and continue to assure our students receive the education they deserve, we need to build more classrooms.
Our task force had a limit on the amount of the bond referendum. Within that framework, we made the recommendation to the school board to move forward in the most fiscally responsible way possible based on our months of research. We believed that prioritizing security, replacing outdated technology, making needed changes and improvements to the district’s buildings and facilities, and funding new classrooms to address rising student enrollment was the most effective and efficient use of taxpayers’ dollars.
After receiving our recommendation and input from the public, St. Michael-Albertville School Board voted unanimously to hold the bond referendum on February 7.
Our community is fortunate to have become a popular location to raise a family. Much of that can be credited to our wonderful school district. Just as parents plan for the needs of their own growing family, our school district needs to be prepared for growth in our schools.
By voting “Yes” on the bond referendum, we can make the needed changes now, save taxpayers money in the long run, and build upon the success of our school district and community.