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MACCRAY to survey residents on school district building plans

MACCRAY School Board members are keeping options for a single-campus and a three-campus system on the table. The three-campus option would call for pre-kindergarten to third-grade elementary schools in Maynard and Raymond and grades 5-12 on the junior and senior high school campus in Clara City. The East Elementary in Raymond is shown above. (FILE | TRIBUNE)

CLARA CITY — MACCRAY School Board members intend to survey district residents to learn where common ground can be found on the district’s building needs.

The board members at their meeting Monday will select a consulting firm to conduct the survey, they informally agreed at a work session Wednesday in Clara City.

The decision followed their discussions about the inability of a 25-member, facilities working committee to reach a consensus on how the district should address its needs.

Architects Ron Halgerson and Bert Haglund of TSP Architects worked with the committee. Haglund said the committee was “exceptionally engaged’’ in the process, which spanned several months.

“Bert and I don’t see an ideal solution,’’ said Halgerson of the architects’ takeaway from that process.

He said the architects believe the district needs to find what common ground it can, rather than the consensus it had hoped to achieve.

Board members feel they are back to where they were in January 2014, when voters rejected a $20 million bond proposal to construct an elementary school and auditorium/theater on the high school campus in Clara City.

The proposal for a one-campus system was supported by voters in the original Clara City district, but rejected in the original Raymond and Maynard districts.

The issue of whether to be a three-campus or single-campus district split the facilities working committee as well.

“I have no clear direction,’’ said school board member Lane Schwitters of where things remain after the facilities working committee ended its work.

Board members do have a better idea of what the district’s needs are today, and they are much greater than the $20 million proposal put before voters two years ago.

Work by TSP Architects has indicated that it will cost over \$30.5 million to address the needs.

That’s the estimated cost to repair the West and East Elementary schools, in Maynard and Raymond respectively, and upgrade the high school in Clara City, including adding an auditorium to it.

Other options, such as replacing rather than repairing the East Elementary, raise the possible costs to over $37 million.

In discussions, board members indicated that they will continue to consider both a single-campus and a three-campus option.

Board members discussed a three-campus proposal with a new configuration of grades.

Instead of K-6 elementary schools, the West and East elementary schools would accommodate prekindergarten through third-grade instruction.

Fifth and sixth grades would be moved to the junior and senior high campus in Clara City.

A majority of board members said they believe a single campus system remains the best educational model for the district.

Board member Deb Brandt disagreed, and said proponents of a three-campus system believe smaller schools located closer to parents and enjoying community support provide the best educational model.

The chair and other board members voiced concerns about the urgency of addressing the district’s building needs. Heating and mechanical systems in the two elementary schools are well beyond their life expectancies, and architects and engineers have identified millions of dollars worth of needs in the buildings to address.

“What kind of expenses are we gonna have in the next five years if we just let this drag on?” asked Schwitters at the meeting’s onset.

Tom Cherveny

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

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