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Froke: Building project raises many valid questions

I wanted to respond to Don Johnson’s article in last week’s Tribune regarding the School District’s upcoming school bond election. Initially, I want to thank Mr. Johnson and the approach he took to raising questions he had regarding the project and the positive manner in which he crafted his thoughts. This is clearly what the school district wants regarding this project and that is the opportunity to hold dialogue on the rationale behind the components of the project.

Mr. Johnson rightfully puts forth questions regarding the proposal’s intent where Rossman Elementary is concerned.

First, Rossman will not be closed. In fact, Rossman will continue to be a “neighborhood” school in that it will house the district’s earliest learners when, contingent upon the election’s outcome, the district will expand its preschool programming.

Second, the district’s business office and community education programming will, contingent upon the election’s outcome, move to Rossman. This would result in the closing of the Lincoln Education Center and the current School District Business Office. With those two buildings taken off line (and possibly sold), that creates an opportunity for efficiency.

Third, the district is currently in discussions with the Boys and Girls Club regarding an arrangement that would have them lease space for their operations at the Rossman Site. It was mentioned in Mr. Johnson’s letter that this would create costs for the district. To the contrary, the Boys and Girls Club would lease existing space at Rossman for their programming, thereby creating a revenue stream for the school district.

As a further point of clarification, Rossman was a part of the facility improvement bond issuance in 1997. At that time, there was a 10,000 square foot addition to Rossman. Prior to 1997, Rossman encompassed 50,393 square feet. This addition was a smaller part of a project that included an increase of 26,000 square feet at Roosevelt and 64,000 square feet added to the High School. Furthermore, the core and the majority of the Rossman building itself is over 60 years old.

Finally, in response to Mr. Johnson’s concern about land, the district did look at securing opportunities for the purchase of land on the south side of Detroit Lakes. We also looked at the existing Rossman site and came to the discovery that in order to do that, the district would have to invoke its right to eminent domain and displace current homeowners living adjacent to the property, and that was not something of interest to the district. Consequently, when a person takes a look at all of the property impacted by wetlands, railroad tracks, airplane flight lines, and natural gas lines in Detroit Lakes, there isn’t much left for options where building a school is concerned. To that end, we think we have a very nice piece of property that will serve the district’s students well, provided the election passes on Nov. 5.

This building project proposal will certainly raise many questions between now and Election Day on Nov. 5. The district is poised to assist with these questions, so please don’t hesitate to ask. — Doug Froke, Superintendent of Schools