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BOLD School District's division apparent as it starts new look at facilities needs

Roughly a third of those attending a public information meeting last week walked out when they learned they were to provide written comments on sticky notes instead of speaking directly to board members. Those who remained got an opportunity to speak, and they expressed concerns for the district's future.

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Those who attended an informational meeting last week hosted by the BOLD School Board were invited to place comments on sticky notes on white sheets corresponding to six questions posed to the public on the district's facilities needs. Tom Cherveny / West Central Tribune

OLIVIA — Divisions in the BOLD School District were apparent when school board members hosted a public meeting to gather input on facilities needs on April 22.

Roughly a third of the estimated 60 or so participants walked out of the Olivia gymnasium together when they learned that it was not intended as an open forum for public comment.

School Board Chair Jill Hanson asked attendees to place their comments and questions on white paper sheets along the gym walls using sticky notes they had been given when they arrived. The comments and questions were to be placed on the sheets, each of which featured questions posed on the challenges facing the district, and why people opposed or supported the bond issue put before voters in the February referendum.

The board chair said the district would respond to the questions and answers on the school district’s website .

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After the formal meeting ended, many attendees lingered to discuss their thoughts on the BOLD School District's facilities needs. The school board hosted the meeting April 22 in the gymnasium in Olivia. Tom Cherveny / West Central Tribune

The district is starting a new effort to gather input on its facilities needs after voters in February rejected a $62.6 million bond seeking to build a new school to serve the communities of Bird Island , Lake Lillian and Olivia .

Related stories:

  • BOLD, Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart discuss academic collaboration, but not facilities School board members for the BOLD and Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart districts met to discuss ways they can work together. Both boards are interested in ways to expand opportunities for students, but there was no discussion on working together towards consolidation or a joint building program.
  • BOLD taking steps to address facilities needs, both immediate and long-term A contractor is set to provide input on immediate roofing needs while BOLD School Board members prepare for joint meeting with their Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart counterparts on possible cooperation.
  • BOLD School Board seeks path forward on massive facilities needs after $62.6M bond rejected BOLD School Board members are looking for a way forward to address the district's facilities needs after voters rejected a $62.6 million bond. Board members are open to discussions with neighboring districts and options such as remodeling, but face some urgency after hearing a report on deficiencies in current facilities.
  • Bird Island, Lake Lillian and Olivia voters in BOLD School District reject $62.6 million bond referendum Voters say no to bond referendum for new preK-12 facility, athletic and activities complex.

Terry Serbus was among those leading the charge out of the door. He expressed his frustration that comments and questions couldn’t be raised directly at the meeting, and said that there was no transparency. “We told you what we wanted,” said Serbus as he and others left.
The meeting format came as a surprise to some of the school board members as well.

Member Sandy Benson said she believed the meeting was to be a forum with opportunities for a back-and-forth dialogue.

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BOLD School Board member Theresa Jacobs stands at the podium and invites those attending the meeting on the BOLD School District's facilities needs to come forward and have their say. Board chair Jill Hanson is at right. Tom Cherveny / West Central Tribune

Board member Theresa Jacobs approached the podium and invited participants who remained to take the opportunity to also come forward and express themselves.

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A number of people did so.

Among the first was former school board member Jeff Benson. While he applauded the effort to gather public input on facilities needs, he too urged the board to hold an open conversation.

There’s a need, he said, “for an actual, down-to-earth dialogue.”

Participants also expressed concerns about the district’s future due to the divisions and, especially, the need to address the facilities needs.

Jackie Edwards, speaking as a parent, said she was among those concerned for the district’s future.

“We have to figure out how to do this and how to do it together,” she said.

John O’Neill served on the district’s steering committee prior to the referendum for a new school facility. He said he felt the process was “steered” and said the referendum showed the result.

“Eighty-one percent said no to a brand new school, and 19 percent could agree it was the best route to go. Someone failed,” he said.

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“It’s time to start repairing things instead of putting a Band-Aid on,” said O'Neill.

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Participants expressed a wide range of views on sticky notes they posted at the BOLD School Board's meeting to gather information on the district's facilities needs on April 22 in Olivia. Tom Cherveny / West Central Tribune

Superintendent Dale Brandsoy said there were misperceptions about the format for the meeting, but emphasized that board members want public input and to provide answers to the questions out there. He urged participants to place their comments on the white sheets around the gymnasium, and they filled up with comments.

The comments ranged from concerns about the condition of the current facilities to the tax impact of building new facilities. “Taxes going tooooo high,” stated one note. Concerns about public trust and the divisions in the district were apparent as well in the comments.

There was also an encouragement to board members to develop a plan to move forward: “Provide a new or remodeled building to give great education to students at an affordable price,” said Susie Peterson, who signed her comment.

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