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Clara City EDA discusses MACCRAY discord

The upper floor of the MACCRAY East Elementary in Raymond is closed to students. While there are facility issues in Raymond and Maynard, Superintendent Brian Koslofsky told the Clara City Economic Development Authority that he does not anticipate state intervention at this point. (Tribune file photo)1 / 3
Tunnels at the MACCRAY East Elementary School in Raymond are responsible for a musty odor in the building. The district is looking for ways to ventilate the tunnels, Superintendent Brian Koslofsky told members of the Clara City Economic Development Authority during a discussion of issues facing the school district. (Tribune file photo)2 / 3
Aged heating systems at the MACCRAY elementary schools are an issue the district will need to address sooner rather than later, MACCRAY School Board Chairman Lane Schwitters told members of the Clara City Economic Development Authority on Monday. Shown are the MACCRAY West boilers in Maynard, which were retrofitted to burn natural gas in place of oil. (Tribune file photo)3 / 3

CLARA CITY — Members of the Clara City Economic Development Authority are considering whether to invite their counterparts in Raymond and Maynard to meet and discuss the issues that are dividing the MACCRAY School District.

The Clara City EDA members said they would decide at their April meeting whether to extend the invitation. They learned Monday that the proposal would be supported by MACCRAY School Board Chairman Lane Schwitters and Superintendent Brian Koslofsky. The EDA members invited the two to discuss the issues following the second rejection by voters of a bond issue for a single-campus system.

"I think it would be valuable to have the EDAs come together,'' said Supt. Koslofsky during discussions at the EDA meeting in Clara City. "It's a matter of what can we learn from one another.''

Schwitters said he also supported the idea, but noted that he could not speak for the entire board.

Prior to the Feb. 7 referendum, the city councils in Maynard and Raymond went on record opposing the $38.8 million bond measure to build a single elementary school and auditorium on the high school campus in Clara City. Voters rejected it by a 1,108 to 1,003 vote.

EDA members said the city of Clara City purposely did not take a public stand on the bond issue in front of voters. Voters in the original Clara City school district supported the bond measure. Voters in the original Raymond and Maynard districts opposed it.

Schwitters said it is not clear what the MACCRAY School District will do now.

"That question has been asked a lot lately,'' he said.

He said the board is divided 3-3, but needs to find a way forward. Three different engineering firms have examined the elementary school facilities in Raymond and Maynard.

"All are saying it's time to do something,'' he said.

The most pressing needs are the heating, cooling and ventilation systems in the two buildings. Engineers estimate that approximately $5 million in upgrades are needed to the systems at each school, according to Koslofsky.

"Eventually it is going to happen in the middle of the school year and then what do we do? That's my fear,'' said Schwitters of the potential for a heating system failure.

Koslofsky said board members also need to address the academic and educational challenges posed by the current three-site system.

While the buildings in Raymond and Maynard have significant needs, the superintendent said he does not anticipate the state taking action to force the district to either renovate or close the facilities.

"I think that is far down the road, whether that is five, seven or 10 years,'' he said.

Schwitters said he is not optimistic about seeing another single-campus bonding question being placed before the voters anytime soon, but he remains in favor of it.

He and the superintendent said they both believe the district's long-term stability and growth depend on economic growth in all three communities. But Schwitters said he has a hard time with the idea that it is the school district's responsibility to keep the buildings in all three communities for the sake of the towns.

"I don't want the towns to die no more than anybody else in this room does, but I don't want them to take the school district down in the process,'' he said.

EDA members said they believe a lot of misinformation was disseminated prior to the referendum.

They also discussed whether the district should elect school board members as at-large positions to provide fair representation based on population. Currently, voters in each of the original MACCRAY districts of Raymond, Maynard and Clara elect two representatives each.

Tom Cherveny

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

(320) 214-4335
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