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New London-Spicer to seek voter OK for $14.6M facilities project

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news Willmar, 56201
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

NEW LONDON –– A $14.6 million building proposal will be on the ballot in November in the New London-Spicer School District.

The NLS School Board voted unanimously Monday to ask district residents to vote on the project, which includes construction of a 650-seat performing arts auditorium, estimated at $6,750,000 and a gymnasium with attached fitness center and second-floor walking track, estimated at $6,370,000.

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Both of those projects would be constructed at the high school.

Additional gymnasium space is being sought, in part, because the NLS gymnastics program will be losing its space at the Decision Hills Bible Camp near Spicer. The program has been housed at the off-site facility for years, but the camp property is now for sale, said NLS Board member David Kilpatrick.

For years the school has shared the Little Theater in downtown New London with the community theater for its plays, and band and choir concerts are currently performed in the school gym.

Superintendent Paul Carlson said having improved facilities could increase enrollment, school funding and school programs.

As part of the proposal, a “cafetorium” would be built at Prairie Woods Elementary School to provide a combination of dining and auditorium and learning center space for an estimated cost of $1,030,000.

Currently the cafeteria is in the gym, which reduces time for students to exercise. Third- and fourth-graders have gym only twice a week, while the younger grades have it three times a week. Sharing the space is also challenging for janitors who rush to clean up breakfast to get the space ready for gym class, and then set up tables again for lunch.

Freeing up the gym would provide space for kids to “run off a lot of energy” during the long, cold winter days, said Board Chairman Robert Moller.

The final piece of the plan is a $480,000 remodeling project, including the creation of one centralized nurses’ station for the high school and middle school students and remodeling the old middle school basement cafeteria into learning centers.

Currently, the middle school has a small nurse facility and the high school has a large space. Because high school students rarely use the services compared to middle school students, the building committee said it makes sense to revamp the space to better meet students’ needs.

The board intends to hold informational meetings prior to the vote.

While there was unanimous support for putting the issue on the ballot, several board members said they have heard from voters about the size of the proposal and a desire to split the issue into two questions – to vote for either the performing arts auditorium or the gymnasium.

Board member Helena Lungstrom, a member of the building committee, said to “pick one over the other – there’s absolutely no way to do that.”

Lungstrom said the committee has “looked at every possible angle” to meet the needs of students with the current proposal.

Moller said he wanted to bring those voters’ concerns to the board even though he supports putting one combined question on the ballot.

If the project is approved by voters, construction would begin in July of next year and be completed by August of 2016.

In other news, five individuals have filed for the four school board positions up for election this fall. They include four incumbents: Dan DeGeest, Helena Lungstrom, Robert Moller and Holi Cogelow Ruter; and also Cherrish Holland has filed. Filing for school board ends at 5 p.m. today.

 

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