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Montevideo school voters to decide $47.75 M bond for elementary

Montevideo school district voters will decide a two-question bond referendum on April 14. The school board is seeking approval of a $47.75 million bond for a new preK-grades 4 elementary and a $13.28 million bond for a new fine arts/performing center. The second question is contingent upon approval of the first

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Montevideo Schools Superintendent Luther Heller responds to a question during a public input meeting hosted by the school last July. School board members are putting a two-question bond referendum to voters on April 14 in hopes of building a new, preK - grade 4 elementary school and a new fine arts/performing center. West Central Tribune file photo/Tom Cherveny

MONTEVIDEO — Montevideo school district voters will decide April 14 whether to build a new elementary school and a new fine arts building.

School board members recently approved a two-question bond referendum, according to Superintendent Luther Heller. The first question asks approval for a $47.75 million bond to construct a new, preK - grade four elementary school. The second question asks approval for a $13.28 million bond to develop a 1,200-seat auditorium including band and choir classrooms.

The second question is contingent upon approval of the first question for the elementary school, said the superintendent.

The district has a need for more classrooms in the elementary grades as its enrollment of 1,460 continues a slow but steady growth, according to the superintendent. School board members have also identified a host of issues posed by the two aging, 1950’s vintage elementary schools. The costs to upgrade the Ramsey and Sanford Elementary Schools and expand them to hold more students are nearly that of building a new facility, he said.

School board members have made addressing the needs of elementary students a priority for the district, explained the superintendent.

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School board members are looking to build the elementary school to accommodate a five-section format, instead of the current four-section format.

If a new elementary school is built, the existing middle school would be remodeled and the grades reconfigured. Grade 4, now in the middle school, would be moved to the elementary school. Grade 8, now in the high school, would be moved back to the middle school. It results in a grades 5 -8 middle school and a grades 9 -12 high school.

The project also calls for upgrading security in the middle school with plans for a single, main public entry. The plan also improves traffic safety for student drop off.

The current fine arts facility is more than 80 years old, vulnerable to flooding, and has experienced mold and other issues. Its location also requires the district to bus students there, which limits its availability.

A new fine arts/performing center and its band and choir classrooms would be located on the main campus and connected to the high school with a hallway.

Heller said the proposal adopted by school board members follows a two-year process to identify the district’s needs and gather public input. School board members identified nearly $90 million in needs to address over the longer term, he pointed out. A survey conducted for the district last year found a “tax tolerance” by voters in the district for bonding in the range now being proposed.

The district will be hosting public information meetings in the coming weeks to tell voters about the plans. A citizen task force headed by Steve Beal is planning to promote a yes vote.

The district has also added a “ Montevideo Forward ” site to its website to provide information on the proposal. It also allows voters to determine the tax impact on their property.

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The project is eligible for the state’s Ag 2 School tax credit which reduces the tax impact on agricultural lands.

Voting for the referendum will be held at the TACC Center and absentee ballots will be available at the district offices beginning Feb. 28.

Board members have not yet identified a site for a new elementary school, but would like it to be in general proximity to the middle school/high school campus. A site on school-owned property across the street from the Sanford Elementary is among those under consideration, according to the superintendent.

CORRECTION-Feb. 6, 2020 — This story has been updated. In the Feb. 5 article on the Montevideo school district bond issue, the information on the proposed grade configuration that would result should have stated: Grade 4, now in the middle school, would be moved to the elementary school; and Grade 8, now in the high school, would be moved back to the middle school. These moves result in a configuration of grades 5-8 at the middle school and a grades 9-12 at the high school.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
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