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School Board will ask voters three questions

If all three ballot questions pass in School District 833's referendum this fall, the owner of a $200,000 home would see an increase in taxes of $100 per year.

With a $300,000 home, taxes would be increased by $151 a year.

The District 833 School Board made the decision final last week to seek a referendum and settled on three questions.

The first question asks voters to approve $107 million for a third high school. It also includes improvements for Park and Woodbury high schools, including science labs, auditorium improvements, community rooms that can be used for lectures, classroom upgrades and Park High School entrance remodeling.

It also includes a stadium for the new high school. Supt. Tom Nelson argued that Apple Valley, Eastview and the new Lakeville high school referendums included new stadiums.

So facilities would be equal at all three high schools, Park and Woodbury's running tracks would be refurbished and new turf, similar to the new field recently installed in the Metrodome, would be added.

New fields would offer consistent conditions for sports played in stadiums, according to Nelson and athletic officials.

District officials are looking to locate a new high school somewhere between Bailey Road in Woodbury and 70th Street in Cottage Grove. Approximately five properties are under consideration, Nelson said.

The second question asks voters to vote "yes" for $42 million to complete installation of new air quality systems in all schools except for Cottage Grove and Liberty Ridge elementaries.

The money is half the cost of the new systems that will be installed over 10 to 13 years. The district is funding the remainder with a facilities levy for districts with aging buildings.

The third question asks for $1 million a year for 10 years to keep up with technology that would allow the district to move the computer replacement cycle from 10 to 13 years to five years. It also improves camera security in all buildings.

The district also plans to change grade configurations so kindergarten to fifth-grades will be in elementary schools, grades six, seven and eight would be in middle schools and grades nine to 12 would be in high schools.

The change allows the district to continue to house students in existing elementary schools, offer an all-day kindergarten option for all families that want it, give sixth-graders more educational opportunities in middle school and put ninth-graders in high school where they will have better access to advanced placement classes and sports participation.

"Without field improvements, with ninth-grades coming to high schools, we are in trouble from day one," Nelson said.

Moving one grade out of elementary schools will allow Spanish Immersion classes, now housed at Bailey Elementary School where there is no room in future years, to move to Crestview Elementary School beginning in 2007-08. The program will run along side traditional classes for students in the existing attendance area.

When the board discussed the referendum two weeks ago, four questions were being considered, with the fourth asking for $6 million for a third high school stadium and improvements at existing high school schools and fields.

Nelson was convinced by athletic directors Phil Kuemmel and John Soma that equal consideration should be given to both academics and sports facilities.

Board Member Jim Gelbmann argued the ballot should offer a third stadium and improvements as a fourth ballot question.

Gelbmann is confident voters would approve it as they approved field houses at Park and Woodbury when it was a separate question in 2002.

If it fails, the district might still be able to pass a referendum for a third high school. "The district is in a lot of trouble if a new high school question fails," he said.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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