Referendum amount to high a cost

To the editor:

First, let me say I very much enjoy being a part of the Marshall community. I moved here over a decade ago from another rural part of Minnesota, but where I was the only Ph.D. economist in the region, and was therefore somewhat overworked and lonely. Here we have a well-educated community which includes many diverse ethnic groups. We are fortunate to be the “smallest growing community in Minnesota” (as DEED has confirmed for me). I have had several children attend Marshall schools.

However, $40,000,000 does seem to be a high cost to address what may be only a temporary overcrowding situation in the public schools. Regional demographics indicate that there will be fewer students in the future, as families — including recent immigrants — increasingly choose to have fewer children. Employment at both Schwan and Southwest Minnesota State University is dicey, as major employers continue the trend of investing in the Twin Cities. Broader immigration patterns are far beyond the control of the local school board.

A more sensible plan, as the Marshall Independent has suggested, would be to make a strategic investment in replacing West Side School with a modern facility. Both West Side and its replacement could be used for a few years, perhaps until it becomes clear whether school enrollment will, in fact, grow over the longer term. The other bonding requests are, frankly, frivolous.

Block scheduling at the high school has resulted in the loss of about 10 percent of that building’s capacity (according to the School District website). Returning to traditional classes would allow a return to more efficient use of classrooms, especially special purpose areas. As well, it would allow easier scheduling for part day PSEO classes. From my personal experience I can testify that Marshall has high school students who are ready for part-days at SMSU, but not a full schedule of college classes.

Administrative offices could easily be moved out of the middle school, opening up space for direct instruction. Until a “West Side Replacement” would come online, overcrowding at Park Side/West Side could be addressed by leasing classroom space. SMSU is currently operating at 47 percent of building capacity. The long-range plan for the college includes demolishing at least one functioning building. At Northwest Missouri State (the school that recently beat out our local men’s basketball team by 3 points), “The Horace Mann Laboratory School is a training ground for education majors.” I cannot imagine why the wonderful cooperation Marshall has shown in joint athletic facilities (the Regional Events Center, track and field, etc.) cannot be copied on the academic side. Until then, my vote is “no.”

Dr. Stephen Davis