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Raymond, Maynard to present alternative to MACCRAY board

MACCRAY West in Maynard. Tribune file photo

CLARA CITY — MACCRAY School Board members are expected to decide Monday evening whether to ask district voters to consider a $20 million proposal to build an elementary school and fine arts center alongside the high school in Clara City, and close the elementary schools in Raymond and Maynard.

A coalition of residents from Raymond and Maynard will be asking school board members to consider an entirely different option: Invest in upgrades to the West and East elementary schools and keep them open.

The upgrades can be accomplished at costs well below those estimated by the school’s consultant, Energy Services Group of Wayzata, they will tell board members.

“Significantly less,’’ said Richard Groothuis, mayor of Maynard. He and others will be presenting to school board members an analysis and estimates for upgrading the two buildings just completed for them by Lightowler Johnson Associates, of Fargo, N.D.

The analysis by the Fargo firm engaged by the two cities’ shows that the upgrades to the MACCRAY East Elementary in Raymond could be completed for an estimated $5.6 million, as compared to a $9.3 million estimate by the school’s consultant.

The analysis by the Fargo firm shows that the upgrades to the MACCRAY West Elementary in Maynard could be completed for $4.97 million, as compared to a $9 million estimate by the school’s consultant.

Along with their own engineering analysis, the group of local residents also hopes to pack the 7:30 p.m. meeting with residents to make another point: Plans to close the West and East Schools will tear the district apart. Families in Maynard and Raymond will use open enrollment to send their elementary-age students elsewhere, they warn.

The state’s open enrollment statute allows students to apply to attend school outside of their home district — and state per-student funding follows them to the new school.

The two communities are worried that if the elementary schools are closed, many young families will never choose to make either Maynard or Raymond their homes.

Raymond has a growing population of young families, thanks to its proximity to Willmar and job opportunities in the Kandiyohi County community, said Larry Macht, who operates an accounting business in the community.

He is among those distributing fliers this weekend and encouraging residents to let school board members know their concerns.

The economies of both Raymond and Maynard will be adversely affected by the loss of the elementary schools, according to Macht and John Meyer of Maynard. The loss of young families would mean less demand for housing, less consumer spending, and a shrinking labor pool.

They also want school board members to consider the economic toll that a decision to close the elementary schools would cause the district. They are convinced that enrollment declines would follow and cause a significant drop in state aid. They believe the loss be much greater than the savings projected by the district for operating one central elementary school in place of two.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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