Dist. 728 board faces bond referendum vote

Supt. Mark Bezek discusses a bond referendum with School Board members in the Elk River High School media center. (Photo by Paul Rignell)
Supt. Mark Bezek discusses a bond referendum with School Board members in the Elk River High School media center. (Photo by Paul Rignell)

$98 million package to include Rogers auditorium

by Paul Rignell

Contributing Writer


The Elk River Area School Board anticipates voting on a bond and operating levy referendum slated for the November elections.

The district property improvements and additions that board members reviewed in a proposal during a June 16 workshop would require estimated bonding of $98 million.

Components include classroom additions and renovation at both Elk River and Zimmerman high schools, and an entire third wing would be built at Rogers High School, according to plans distributed at the workshop.

High school auditoriums and early childhood learning centers would be designed for construction in Rogers and Zimmerman. The district would plan to build another early childhood center and school units for kindergarten through eighth grade in Otsego.

Athletic facility work would include a wrestling room at Elk River High School and conversion of some grass fields to synthetic turf.

Regardless if voters approve a bond referendum next fall, district officials are likely to push on with building the third wing for classrooms at Rogers High School where 1,426 students attended classes in 2013-14 despite the current campus’ design capacity for only 1,200. With a steady rate of growth in the southern portion of District 728, officials expect more than 1,500 to enroll at Rogers High School next fall and that the numbers will head gradually toward 1,700 by 2018-2019.

The district could proceed with meeting what most officials seem to recognize as its greatest need (at Rogers High School) by approving available lease levies that the state allows school districts to issue based on their pupil unit totals.

Board members spoke June 16 of wanting to know their administrators’ recommendations on how and when to roll out word to the public on the benefits that would come from a successful referendum.

Shane Steinbrecher has been most vocal among the group during discussions this spring on wanting to set a plan for communication. He said this week that he would love to see the district office media staff produce and release two new online videos each week in effort to keep residents aware of the referendum.

Staff said that with official board support for promoting a referendum at the June 23 meeting, they could present a communications plan at a board workshop June 30. Steinbrecher requested that staff share a written plan with board members on the preceding Thursday or Friday.


Other board topics

Executive Director of Business Services Greg Hein reported a favorable option for the district to temporarily relocate early childhood programming being squeezed out in Rogers, possibly effective for programming Aug. 1 with board approval June 23.

Hein explained the available site is in a commercial center near Hardee’s and KinderCare.

“It’s a good location for us,” he said.

Also, board members seemed to reach consensus that they do not want to consider raising school lunch prices for 2014-15, in spite of comments from Food Service Manager Julee Miller (who was present June 16) that the existing rates are generally 10 cents below where they should be to cover costs.

Some board members noted that a la carte options are being reduced at schools where those have been available, and those members cited that change as one reason for not wishing to charge more for hot lunches in the fall.