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Letter to Editor: Menahga school proposed plan considers supporters and opponents

Because he griped, he came up with a solution... said "former construction company owner, turned dairy farmer" Troy Salmen. He voted 'no' on all the previous Menahga school referendums, and he was very vocal about it. So, he decided since he had a strong opinion on the subject, he better try to come up with a solution.

He did. He sat down at the breakfast table one day, and started drawing on a napkin. He called various sources (architects and businesses) and looked online, to find the specs he needed to make his proposed school plan legal. He brought his idea to a family friend, who helped him draft it. This plan was then presented at a community input session, and received positive reviews... even by some of those strongly opposed to past referendums.

The next step? School Board Chair Andrea Haverinen directed that a new Building Advisory Committee be formed. Troy and his wife joined. Others who voted 'no' in the past joined... including myself. But fortunately, it wasn't only those who had strong 'no' opinions on the committee, there was also those with strong 'yes' opinions. The majority of us had one thing in common... the opinion that we absolutely need more space, and fairly quickly, due to both the amount of students that are currently enrolled in our school, and our strong in-district growth. We legally cannot kick anybody out who is already enrolled in our school, whether they are open enrolled or not.

As no other plans had been brought forth, we started with Troy's original plan, and worked from there. Through Troy's subsequent research, he found that his original plan did not address the recommended space needed for a high school phy ed class. He also realized, after talking to the cooks and touring the current kitchen, that the kitchen area needed more space than what he had originally proposed.

Many hours were put into this plan. We had coffee to discuss the plan/plans. The coffee was not closed to the public, nobody was purposely left out. We tried to get the word out, as best as we could. In fact, we especially wanted people from both ends of the spectrum to be there, so we could come up with a plan acceptable to most. This discussion over coffee is where we were able to finally come up with a potentially acceptable plan, even though there were some heated discussions! And in this part of my letter, I will note that throughout the whole building plan process, Troy and Superintendent Mr. Wellen disagreed more times then they agreed. In no way can it be said that they were "in cahoots."

The next step? Bring the plan to the next "official" building advisory meeting. Mistakenly, a notice of the meeting was not posted correctly. Although it had been announced at the previous special board meeting, it was deemed an unofficial meeting and the school board members, who were co-chairs of the committee, decided to attend, but not to speak. We were still able to work on getting closer to finalizing our plans.

Finally, we were able to have a plan (3 step) to present to the board.

Step 1: A basic plan that includes 10 new classrooms (on main level), added shop space to meet the needs of metals, welding and woods, a new kitchen and lunchroom, and the replacement of a current small gym with one that will fit middle schoolers and high schoolers for their physical education classes. This gym has no bleachers or stage.

Step 2: If you would vote 'yes' on step one, then you would have the option to vote 'yes' on step 2, which is adding on a second floor to make a total of 22 new classrooms.

Step 3: If you would vote 'yes' on step 1 and step 2, then you would have the option to vote 'yes' on step 3, which includes expanding the gymnasium proposed in step 1, accessible space for adaptive physical education, a clean lab for high school robotics and laser engraving, a fitness and weight room and the relocation of the high school office, while the number of classrooms stay the same as in step 2.

Voters would be able to vote for as little, or as much as they want.

This time, in my opinion and observations, the administration is not trying to get this referendum passed by not caring about the cost, or by bypassing who they please. They are hoping to get it done by keeping the cost at whatever level the majority of voters are comfortable with, and by involving both the 'no' and 'yes' voters in the development of the plan.

I am comfortable with this plan. If it should make it through all the legal steps to make it official, I will vote yes, this time.