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May 14 facility referendum

As we transition into the last few months of the school year, I want to thank all of the members of our community — parents, students, staff and residents — who have helped us work to achieve our goal of inspiring every student every day. The winter certainly tried to disrupt our rhythm, but with a few adjustments, we will be on track to finish the year strong.

As the year comes to a close, the school board is asking residents to vote on a building referendum. Since the last referendum failed two years ago, residents asked the district to focus the plan on the most immediate needs of the school district, even if it seemed that we could afford to do even more. We have taken that advice to heart, and the May 14 referendum is focused on our three highest priorities.

First, West Side Elementary is our oldest school, with building sections constructed in 1955 and 1960. In addition to being too small for current enrollment, West Side needs substantial improvements in its classrooms, its mechanical systems and most of the offices that provide student services (such as nursing and special education). Outside the building, the drop-off and pick-up areas aren’t designed for 2019 traffic flow, putting student safety at risk. West Side needs a lot of work.

Second, we need dedicated space for our earliest learners, as many students are starting school well before first grade. Park Side is an ideal campus for a set of classrooms and play area that is designed for use by Early Childhood and pre-kindergarten students, and these students can eventually be integrated into the kindergarten and grade 1 programs at Park Side.

Finally, while Marshall’s schools are already quite safe, our security systems and design of our main entrances do not meet today’s standards for how to nest protect students and staff. While we never expect to have a security breach in our schools, we want to prevent problems rather than confront them if one occurs.

Once we agreed on the priorities, the solutions were relatively clear:

1. Replace West Side with a new grade 2-4 building, rather than repair and remodel the current building. West Side has served the community well for nearly 60 years, but the time has come to build a new school on land the district already owns on the Middle School site.

2. Add Early Childhood learning areas to Park Side Elementary. In addition to meeting the growing demand from parents, this will free up additional classroom space at Park Side and the Middle School to relieve overcrowding.

3. Redesign safety and security at all buildings, including access that is fully controlled by the front office.

If the May 14 referendum passes, specific architectural design will start immediately, with the new elementary school ready for classes in September 2021.

The cost of this plan is $29.8 million. The owner of a home with a market value of $150,000 will see $6 increase in taxes each month, if the referendum is approved by local voters. We invite any taxpayer to check out the tax calculator at investinginastrongfuture.org and find out about the projected tax impact on your property.

Property owners should also determine if they are eligible for state tax credits. For example, the new Ag2School credit lowers the tax impact on farmland by 40 percent. If you use the tax calculator, this credit is automatically included in the calculation.

In many ways, we are fortunate here at Marshall Public Schools. Our enrollment continues to increase (15 percent growth so far this decade!), which helps keep our operating budget healthy and funds high-quality opportunities and classroom education. Many Minnesota school districts wish they were in Marshall’s position.

But this growing student population means we need a plan to keep providing modern and safe classrooms and campuses for our all students and staff. Based on the feedback the school board received from the community, we believe we have found the best plan to prepare our district for the next generation of students.

Now it is time for local residents to decide whether to move forward with the plan. While the referendum will be held on May 14, early voting actually began on March 29. You can vote early at the Marshall Public School District Office from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, or at the Marshall Middle School on May 14.

I am available to answer questions or meet with groups who want to discuss this plan. Just email me at scott.monson@marshall.k12.mn.us or call me at (507) 537-6924. You can also check out information at investinginastrongfuture.org and click on the Contact Us tab to send me a question.

Thank you for taking time to read this and for the support

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