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DL school building project shouldn’t be rushed

I would like to begin by saying I am not opposed to the idea of improving our school system and paying for it by raising local taxes. I feel my children received an excellent education in the Detroit Lake school system and that they were very well prepared for college when they left. We have supported referendums in the past and I think it is fair that we continue to support our school system in the future (even when my children no longer attend). I know that many people, who were in my situation now, supported the school system when my children attended because they knew it made our community stronger for everyone.

With that said, I would like to address the elephant in the room that many people would like to ignore — Rossman School. I voted for a referendum about 20 years ago that included a great deal of money to bring Rossman up to code and build several new classrooms. With all the work that went into this project, I considered the school to be new 20 years ago. It has housed up to 500 children (which is probably too many) and is the only elementary school left on the south side of town. If I knew they were going to turn this space into administrative offices I would not have voted for it to be remodeled 20 years ago.

If our main concern for a referendum is more space for children, where is the logic in closing down a 20 year old building that can house 500 children? Why do we need to close down a neighborhood school that children can walk to and neighbors can take pride in? Why would we need to spend more money remodeling a school that just went through an extensive remodeling to provide for more school age children? Wouldn’t it make more sense to build the new building to specifically handle any special requirements for \pre-school and administration? I have been told by contractors that there is more expense in remodeling than building new.

We appear to be rushing into this project without thoroughly considering all the alternatives. I had an opportunity to meet with one school board member and expressed my desire to see more community education sessions that could still alter the design. It appeared to me that our school board has given up on the idea of neighborhood schools in favor of consolidating children under grade levels, with more bodies per school.

There are some other issues that still need to be addressed for many of us. 1) $13,000 an acre for unimproved land in that area of the city seems excessive. 2) Is there really any need to move the administrative offices? We spend a great deal in salaries for this staff and frankly their space needs are not nearly as important as our children’s. 3) Is a partnership with the Boys & Girls Club a legitimate way to spend tax money? I am not opposed or unopposed to any of these issues. I just believe there are enough questions remaining to slow down before we spend a great deal of money.

I would like very much to vote yes on a new school referendum because I believe that the space issue is a very legitimate need. I am concerned that this will not happen because if I will not vote yes for it, under its present form, there are probably many more like me. We are a part of the community that have supported these issues in the past and believe in a great school system. We also believe that things should be done right the first time and last for more than 20 years. — Donald Johnson, Detroit Lakes