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RCW voters go to polls Tuesday to vote on school improvements

RENVILLE — Voters in the Renville County West School District will be heading to the polls again Tuesday to decide whether to approve a $5.4 million bond issue to expand the district’s K-12 school building and make some updates.

If the bonds are approved, they would be used to pay for about $4.9 million in facility improvements plus interest and fees.

Voters rejected the same plan in August. They voted on the day of the state primary to reject the plan by 484 to 400 votes.

Superintendent Michelle Mortensen said in December that the plan wasn’t changed before it was resubmitted to the voters “because our needs haven’t changed.”

Polls for Tuesday’s special election will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The one polling place will be at the RCW School at 301 Third St. N.E. in Renville. Voting will take place in the Ag Room in room 009.

The district at one time operated three school buildings, an elementary school in Sacred Heart, a middle school in Danube and a high school in Renville. However as enrollment dropped and expenses rose, the three-building operation became impractical.

The district closed the building in Danube first, followed a few years later by the school in Sacred Heart.

The school building in Renville now houses grades K-12, but space has been at a premium. In some cases, storage rooms or other spaces have been pressed into service. The building has inadequate gym space to serve physical education classes and recess during bad weather.

Plans for the project include a 15,800-square-foot gymnasium addition, five classrooms and a dedicated bus drop-off area, according to information released by the school district. The gymnasium would include a fitness center open to the community.

If the bond issue is approved by the voters in Tuesday’s referendum, work on the projects would be scheduled for calendar years 2015 and 2016.

District officials spelled out the need for the additional classrooms and gym space in a brochure distributed to district residents:

Enrollment has increased since 2011 and is projected to remain at current levels in the coming years.

Due to a lack of classroom space, four teachers share classrooms with other teachers, and five are working in rooms that are the size of closets or storage rooms. Use of those rooms leaves the building with inadequate storage space.

There is not enough space to have smaller class sizes.

The current building lacks space for interactive TV classes or for conference rooms for confidential meetings.

Gym space is inadequate to give elementary students recess time during bad weather. The district has used gym space at the Sacred Heart building for some sports practices, but the building’s boilers are failing, and the cost of repairs is considered prohibitive. Additional gym space at the Renville building could be used in a variety of ways during the day.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

(320) 214-4340