News Article
Bond Referendum: Positive Review from State Department of Education

The Minnesota Department of Education has given its stamp of approval to Owatonna Public Schools' proposal for a new high school that will come before voters on November 5, 2019. 

If voters approve Question 1 on the November ballot, bond funds would be used to build a new high school for 1,600 students to replace the existing high school which is nearly 100 years old. From the research completed by the Community Task Force on Facilities and community input, the high school design plan would include:

  • New learning spaces including classrooms, labs, and shops outfitted with modern technology to support learning and propel our students into 21st-century opportunities

  • A secure main entrance adjacent to the main office

  • Adequate lunchroom space, that also doubles as a community commons area

  • An auditorium that would be paired with appropriately sized music rooms

  • ADA and Title IX compliant

  • Up-to-date building systems, including modern and energy-efficient mechanical and electrical systems

  • Adequate on-site parking

  • A building designed to allow flexibility for future changes as technology continues to evolve

The district identified an approximately 88-acre parcel of land suitable for the proposed new high school near the intersection of Highways 14 and 218, following an extensive review of land options done in partnership with city and county officials. Federated Insurance has signed a letter of intent with the landowner to purchase the land and donate it to the school district, if voters approve the November 5 ballot question.

In her approval letter, Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker said, “Based on the department’s analysis of the school district’s required documentation and other pertinent information from sources of the Minnesota Department of Education, the Commissioner of Education provides a positive review and comment.”

School districts must submit detailed documentation to the state for approval when proposing major building projects. Now that state approval has been granted, the next step is voter approval on November 5. 

The new high school request is the first of two questions on the ballot. Question 2 is a request to repurpose usable parts of the existing high school, rather than tear most of it down. Funds would be used to demolish what’s no longer usable, renovate what can be renovated and develop the site for district and/or community use. If Question 2 is successful, the final design would be a collaboration with the community. If voters approve only Question 1 and not Question 2, the current high school location would still stay in School District control - however,  most of the current high school would be demolished, as the district would not have enough funds to maintain or renovate it.

Both questions require more than 50% yes votes in order to pass. The unanimous School Board decision to bring the two funding requests to voters on November 5 was based on feedback from the community after a narrow loss for a new 1,700 student high school in May 2019.

 

More information about the November 5 election and is available at www.owatonnaproud.org.

   
Author: Shay Baumbach   E-Mail: sbaumbach@isd761.org