BOLD residents see need to improve facilities, school survey finds
A survey of residents in the BOLD School district found that most support an investment in school facilities. There is some support for the school board plan to build a preK - 12 building on the Olivia Hospital and Clinic campus, but not enough to carry the $44.5 million bond needed
OLIVIA — There’s support to address facility needs in the BOLD School District , but school board members have their work cut out for them if they want voters to approve their $44.5 million plan to build a new school.
“You’re warm as far as support for building the new school,” Sue Peterson, School Perceptions, LLC , of Slinger, Wisconsin, told board members on Monday. “Your citizens are telling you, ‘yes, indeed, we need to do something.’” “They see the value of doing something.”
Peterson’s comments came as she shared the results of a newly completed survey of district residents on facilities needs. With 713 surveys returned, the survey had a 31 percent response rate. “It gives us some great insight and shares with us what work needs to be done,” Superintendent Dale Brandsoy said at the meeting’s start.
Peterson said the survey found that residents give the school good overall ratings for the quality of education it provides, as well as its response to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. The respondents gave low grades to the quality of the facilities. The low rating showed that many realize there is a need to do some work, she said.
There is uncertainty and opposing views on just what to do, especially when the survey participants considered the tax impact of various proposals. Peterson said the survey showed that general citizens — those without children in school and not employed by the district — are somewhat split on what to support. “Nearly a quarter of them are telling us we need more information, she said.
The survey found that the current “tax tolerance” of respondents is in the range of $34.8 million. This is the estimated cost by ICS Consultants to correct deficiencies and bring the elementary and high school facilities up to code but provide no improvements.
The school board favors working with the Olivia Hospital and Clinic to build a preK-grade 12 facility on the health care campus on the east edge of Olivia. It would replace the elementary school in Bird Island and the high school in Olivia, both of which are much larger than needed for the district’s enrollment, according to information provided with the survey.
The board’s favored proposal comes with an estimated cost of $44.5 million, and could top $50 million if a 500-seat auditorium at an estimated cost of $6 million is included.
The survey found that among general citizens, the $44.5 million proposal enjoys 34 percent support. Staff and parents with children responding to the survey were more supportive of the single campus proposal.
Roughly 12 percent of the general citizen respondents favor keeping the existing buildings at the estimated $34.5 million investment level. About 10 percent prefer a smaller bonding level.
The survey found that 24 percent of the general public respondents currently say “no” on the central building proposal.
Importantly, 20 percent are undecided, and want more information. “They have not made up their minds yet,” said Peterson.
Supt. Brandsoy said the survey indicated to him that many feel disconnected from the district, quite likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a common feeling during this pandemic as people have fewer contacts with one another, he noted.
He urged school board members to meet next Monday to begin planning how to go forward. While the survey showed the challenges board members face, it also made clear that residents will support investment in improved facilities. “We see support for a building,” said the superintendent. “We need to look at how we can engage the community better.”