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Nevis School looks at possible fall referendum

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Nevis School looks at possible fall referendum
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

Nevis School District voters could be heading to the polls in November to decide the fate of a referendum to fund the construction of an Early Childhood facility, the district having received a $500,000 grant for the project, replacement of the 10-year-old "temporary" high school classrooms and other additions.

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A public hearing was held in one of the portable classrooms on the west end of the school Monday, with a handful of residents arriving to hear proposals, voice opinions.

Preliminary cost estimates for construction of a 5,100-square-foot Early Childhood facility and 4,250-square-foot classrooms on the west end is $1.85 million, a $1.35 million cost to the district with the grant.

SGN/Wendel of Minneapolis, who compiled cost figures, estimates occupancy could be September 2013 if the plan meets voter approval in November.

Estimated tax increase for a residential property valued at $200,000 is less than $20 per year.

The district is also eyeing adding a handicap accessible boys locker room ($120,000) and band addition ($228,400) to the project, bringing the cost to $2.2 million, $1.7 million with the grant factored in.

Other renovations and additions on the drawing board are a choir addition ($240,000), expansion of the wood shop ($187,000) an auditorium ($2.75 million), paving the parking lots ($190,000) and tennis and outdoor basketball courts ($25,000).

Arnold Leshovsky questioned the need for early childhood education. "I know there's a movement to work stealthily to control kids' minds from birth on," he said. "It was at kindergarten, now it's moving down. And I know what kids are being taught in college. Do the research; it's out there. But you won't read it in the newspaper... Kids at 3 and 4 are sponges."

"A massive amount of data" shows the benefits of Early Childhood programs, superintendent Steve Rassier said.

"It's a phenomenal program," board member Jeannette Dudley agreed. "Early Childhood launches kids' thinking. Every study shows that you should put money in when kids are young."

The program recognizes problems kids may have, Andy Lindow said. "Some districts offer it free because they feel so strongly about preparing kids."

"Without Early Childhood, kids coming to kindergarten won't be prepared," Rassier said, noting fees are based on family income, including scholarships.

The plan is to provide space for current enrollment, Rassier said, as opposed to expansion.

The district could fund its portion of the Early Childhood facility construction, estimated at $1 million, without a referendum, using lease levy ability. A voter approved levy would impose less cost to taxpayers, however.

The temporary classroom buildings are developing soft spots on the floor, Rassier said.

ECFE utility costs are $8,000 a year in the current building; an addition would impose far less cost. Heating costs for the portables are $3,200 a year.

"They were built to last two to four years," Rassier said of the portables. "It's been 10."

Leshovsky pointed out half the school's students are open enrolled. "Why provide capital facilities for these kids?"

Open enrolled students provide considerable extra state dollars, adding stability to district finances, Rassier reminded him.

The board briefly discussed posing options on the ballot.

"In my mind, one and two have to be done," board chair Ed Becker said of the Early Childhood facility and high school classrooms. "We can do both without a great impact to the taxpayer. Three through six (boys locker room, band and choir additions and remodeling/expanding the wood shop) could be a second option."

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Jean Ruzicka
(218) 732-3364
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