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Staff positions, security, tech key in District 833 levy

Superintendent Keith Jacobus outlined more details to the South Washington County School Board last week about how approved levy funding would be spent.

Three questions will be on the ballot Nov. 5. Question 1 asks voters to renew two existing levies totaling about $4.6 million a year. One levy is for $180 per pupil and expires this year; another, for $62 per pupil, expires next year and, if renewed, would go into effect in 2015. Those levies provide local property tax revenue for general district operations.

Without approval of the levy renewal, the second question cannot pass.

Question 2 seeks $6.9 million annually in new revenue. Jacobus said if Question 2 passes, money would be used to return 22 teaching positions cut when class size was increased. However, the positions would be in areas that foster "personal learning," he said, and could vary by school building.

Security improvements also are planned with increased levy revenue.

There are vestibules at seven elementary schools that are locked during the school day so those who enter have to go through the main offices, but six schools have open areas at the entrances that are not always in view of office personnel.

After the Sandy Hook school shooting in Connecticut last year, greeters were assigned to the six schools. Referendum money would be used to change those entries.

The district has a separate health and safety levy but the Minnesota Department of Education has ruled that districts can't use it to pay for security, Jacobus said.

Locks on classroom doors, which can only be locked from outside the room, will be changed to also lock from the inside.

There is a product that can be applied to existing glass that can make it shatterproof and would also be paid for with referendum money.

Also, to provide additional building security the district would step up its relationship with local law enforcement, he said.

Question 2 also would provide money for technology. It would be used to increase Internet bandwidth in buildings to support electronics for learning and to support district functions. There are servers and switches that need to be replaced, Jacobus said.

Even though the state has increased general state aid over two years, it doesn’t make up for past freezes to school aid, he said.

Question 3 on the levy will ask voters for $8 million to buy land for an elementary school and a middle school to be built at some time in the future.

About 80 acres is needed and the schools can be on one campus or two sites. When the district bought land for East Ridge, it sold for $100,000 an acre, according to Mike Vogel, assistant to the superintendent for operations.

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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