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MACCRAY to vote on single campus

Tom Cherveny / Tribune MACCRAY School Board member Deb Brandt, right, uses Legos to represent a three-legged stool to make a point Monday night to fellow board members that a single-campus system would "disenfranchise" two of the district's communities and harm MACCRAY. Board member Scott Ruiter is at left.

CLARA CITY — MACCRAY School Board members are bringing a fourth bond referendum for new facilities.

This time around, voters will decide on a single-campus proposal.

At their meeting on Monday, board members approved a motion to put an approximate $39 million bond proposal on the ballot in November. The motion also calls for asking voters to renew a $1,103.03 per-pupil operating levy.

Board members Carmel Thein and Scott Ruiter offered the motion, and were joined by Julie Alsum and board chairman Lane Schwitters in support for a one-campus proposal. Members Deb Brandt and Tate Mueller voted no.

The proposal calls for constructing a new elementary school for prekindergarten through grade 6 on the high school campus in Clara City. It would also expand the high school and renovate the facilities to accommodate a middle school program. It adds a third gymnasium court.

The proposal also includes constructing a 500-seat auditorium.

The project carries an overall estimated cost of $39.9 million and is based on a preliminary design developed by ICS Consulting for the district. Mike Hubbard, representing ICS, told board members earlier that the plan is very similar to the single-campus plan put to voters in 2017.

ICS Consulting had also developed a $34.4 million proposal to renovate and maintain a three-campus system.

Prior to the vote on the motion, board member Deb Brandt warned against pursuing a single-campus proposal.

"If we go to one campus, we have two communities that are disenfranchised," Brandt said.

The district operates elementary schools in Raymond and Maynard, and those schools would be closed if voters approve a single-campus system.

Brandt used Legos to make a point to her fellow board members that the district is like a three-legged stool with finances, education and community each representing a leg. Knock one of those legs off, and the district loses its solid base, she said.

Other board members said that they believe a single-campus system offers students the best educational opportunities and benefits the district financially. ICS Consulting estimates that a single-campus system would save the district $425,000 in operating costs annually, once some positions are eliminated through attrition.

"There are so many efficiencies we gain by having one campus," Schwitters said. He said he was 100 percent behind the three-campus proposal rejected previously by voters. "Never once did I have somebody come up to me and said 'good job, I'm glad you're doing that.'"

Since discussions began on a single-campus plan, Schwitters said he has had at least 10 farmers approach him and tell him they could support it despite the current agricultural economy.

"I'm not saying it is going to pass, but I've got a good feeling about it," he said.

Alsum noted that the proposal is for the long term.

"This is a huge opportunity to take a big leap and prepare for the future and make those changes now, instead of pushing it down the road and pushing it back," she said.

At the start of the meeting, board members also heard from eight individuals from the district who had asked for time to comment on the proposal. Each spoke in favor of a single-campus proposal.

At the meeting, board members also informally agreed to contract with ICS to produce a video promoting the single-campus proposal.

Board members on Monday also unanimously approved a new two-year contract with Superintendent Sherri Broderius. She joined the district in late December 2017 as interim superintendent.

MACCRAY School District voters have rejected three previous bond issues for new facilities, including a $20 million, single-campus plan in 2014; a $38.8 million single-campus plan in 2017; and a $56.1 million, three-campus proposal in 2018.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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