Survey shows residents of western Minnesota's Montevideo School District are split over building proposal

A recent survey of Montevideo School District residents finds an even split on a $59.3 million recommended plan for facilities, but more support for an $11.4 million auditorium proposal.

An aerial photo showing the Montevideo Public Schools campus in Montevideo, Minnesota
This aerial photo shows the Montevideo Public Schools campus in Montevideo, Minnesota. A recent survey of Montevideo residents showed a fairly even divide between those in favor of a $59.3 million plan to address the district's facilities needs and those opposed.
Contributed / Zach Koepke
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MONTEVIDEO — Public opinion in the Montevideo School District is just about evenly split on a school proposal to address its facilities needs.

“Right at that tipping point,” said Daren Sievers, project manager with School Perceptions, of Slinger, Wisconsin. Sievers told school board members on Monday evening that a recently completed survey of district residents found that the school district’s recent proposal had just a slight overall advantage.

“It is very, very close on this,” Sievers said.

Households in the Montevideo School District are being surveyed on their reaction to a recommended plan to address facilities needs. The $59.3 million plan calls for three schools. It would convert the middle school into an elementary school and the high school into a middle school while building a new high school addition.
As director of food and nutrition services for Willmar, Montevideo and New London-Spicer schools, Annette Derouin was always on the lookout for a program that could offer a new way to feed kids. She brought locally grown food to school cafeterias, and has been honored by the state and national school nutrition associations.

The survey found that the $59.3 million recommended plan enjoys majority support from school staff and parents with children in the school district. Residents who do not have children in school and are not employed by the district — who comprise the largest voting block in the district — are split evenly.

The survey showed 43% of the nonparents responding indicated that they would either definitely or probably vote “yes” on the issue. An identical percentage said they would definitely or probably vote “no.”


The survey results suggest a bond could be approved by 53.2% of the voters in a referendum, but only if the district can persuade one-third of those who are now undecided to favor the project, according to the information presented to board members. That is about the maximum share of undecideds that can be persuaded, according to Sievers.

Interestingly, survey respondents were more likely to vote yes for a proposed $11.4 million performing arts auditorium than the school facilities proposal. Asked about the proposed 800-seat auditorium, strong majorities of staff and parents said they would vote yes. Among those without children in school, 47% favored the auditorium as compared to 38% opposed.

The survey was mailed to 3,430 residences in the district, and 769 were returned, representing a 22% return rate. That’s higher than usual, and strong enough to give the survey a margin of error that is only plus or minus 3.1%, according to Sievers.

About 15% of the respondents were undecided. That’s higher than the 11 to 12% that is more commonly seen in surveys of school district residents on bond referendums, according to Sievers.

Sievers and Matt Wolfert, president and architect with Bray Architects, said they believe the higher-than-normal number of undecideds probably reflects some apprehension or uncertainty in the minds of respondents about the direction of the economy.

Both are confident that the main issue that led to such an even split on the proposal is economic. There is some sticker shock at the cost, they said.

The survey also had a higher response rate from senior citizens than from parents with children, which is not usually the case in school surveys. It suggests that senior citizens with fixed incomes are paying close attention to the school issue, according to Sievers.

Montevideo School Superintendent Wade McKittrick told board members that most of the school building ballot questions that were approved during the recent general election were in the $50 million to $60 million range.


Wade McKittrick jpeg.jpg
Wade McKittrick

He said the district could work to let potential voters know that the state's school bond agricultural credit, which reduces the tax burden on agricultural property, means that about 46% of a Montevideo bond issue would be paid by the state, and not local taxpayers. That essentially reduces the cost of the Montevideo proposal for local taxpayers to the range of $30 million to $32 million, he said.

Board members will take up the issue again at a special Dec. 6 meeting. Due to the obvious concerns about cost, board members asked Wolfert and his design team to look at possible reductions in the cost and scope of the project in preparation for that meeting.

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Wolfert said he would also ask bond consultants Ehlers and Associates to analyze how the tax impact would be reduced based on possible reductions to the project cost.

The project consultants and superintendent will also drill deeper into the data provided by the recent survey. They will be looking at the comments offered by respondents to see if there are any themes or issues that emerge.

They also intend to analyze the data further to determine if city and non-city residents view the proposal differently. The majority of respondents, or 64%, were residents of the city of Montevideo and the remainder were from townships in the district.

The recommended plan calls for three school buildings on the current high school and middle school campuses.

The plan calls for closing and demolishing the existing Sanford and Ramsey Elementary buildings. The current middle school would be reconfigured to serve as an elementary school for grades K-4.

The current high school would be renovated to serve as a middle school for grades 5-8.


A new high school would be built on the north end of the current high school building to serve as the senior high for grades 9-12.

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoors reporter for the West Central Tribune.
He has been a reporter with the West Central Tribune since 1993.

Cherveny can be reached via email at or by phone at 320-214-4335.
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