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Update: Benson voters approve $26 million school bond

Artist's rendering of the proposed new performing arts auditorium and new Benson High School entrance.1 / 3
Artist's rendering of a proposed new cafeteria/activity space addition at Northside Elementary in Benson.2 / 3
Artist's rendering of a proposed new, consolidated childcare center at Northside Elementary School in Benson.3 / 3

BENSON – Residents in the Benson School District overwhelmingly approved a $26 million construction and renovation project Tuesday during the state primary election.

Unofficial election returns indicate there were 1,356 yes votes cast and 620 no votes.

About 69 percent of voters supported the project compared to about 31 percent that voted against it.

Superintendent Dennis Laumeyer said approval of the project is a “testament to the time and energy” of the 45-member community task force that created the vision for how the Benson School District will look and function into the future to educate students.

Laumeyer said the strong voter support demonstrates there is “truly an excitement for our community, students, school and staff” and trust in the school board to deliver that educational vision.

The plan includes demolishing 112,000 square feet of existing space, building 55,000 square feet of new space and repurposing 23,000 square feet of existing space in an effort Laumeyer calls “right-sizing” the district to better meet the educational needs of students.

Developed by a 45-member community task force, the plan includes demolishing the existing auditorium and junior high school addition, including sections that were built in 1928 and 1950, and building a new, 600-seat performing arts auditorium and half-dozen collaborative learning classrooms at the high school.

Classrooms and other spaces at the high school would be repurposed, including filling in the swimming pool and turning it into gym space.

A new cafeteria/activity space and a new daycare center will be built at Northside Elementary school.

Construction is expected to being in 2019.

The debt service tax levies for the general obligation bond will begin in 2019 and be in place for 20 years.

In 2015, voters defeated an $18.7 million proposal that also included a combination of demolition, new construction and remodeling of existing spaces.

Laumeyer said a solid construction plan, the community’s belief that “something needed to be done” with the school’s facilities and a strong voter education campaign helped get the project passed this time around.

“I want to give a huge thank you to our volunteers and supporter,” he said.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750