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Froke: More DL school questions answered

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I see that in the Sept. 4 edition of the Becker County Record that Don Johnson has brought forward some additional questions regarding the Nov. 5 school bond election. As was stated in my earlier response to Mr. Johnson’s questions, we’ll attempt to do our very best in answering questions relating to the Nov. 5 school election. In this second response, I’ve tried to identify what his specific questions are with hopes that I can answer them to his satisfaction.

Mr. Johnson’s first question centers around Rossman Elementary and “why (it’s) necessary to spend millions of dollars remodeling this building when we are already building a new building that could be built to specification for pre-kindergarten and administration?” Mr. Johnson’s question is appropriate and one the district contemplated at length as well. Why would the district remodel or add on to Rossman Elementary? We agreed during our planning exercises that “spending millions of dollars remodeling this building” would not be in the district’s best interest. The Rossman site poses multiple issues when it comes to additions or a remodel. First, with its proximity to the lake, water table would be a concern. Second, any new addition would likely “box in” the oldest part of the building meaning that if future school boards wanted to enhance Rossman in the future, the oldest part of the building would have difficult access because it would be “boxed in” by the newer additions. Third, adding on to Rossman would likely have meant the school district exercising its rights to residential property under eminent domain and the district did not see that as a desirable option. So Mr. Johnson’s question is aligned with the district’s position on this issue. To that end, we are not “spending millions of dollars” to remodel Rossman. In fact, no dollars will be committed from the bonding project to renovate Rossman. Instead, as of early August, the District made the decision to use resources from its existing Capital Outlay fund to address the Rossman renovations to support Pre-School programming, Community Education and the District’s Business operations.

The second question posed by Mr. Johnson is the potential partnership with the Boys and Girls Club. I’m not sure what is meant by “setting a precedent for future bond issues,” but I will say that the rationale behind the district partnering with the Boys and Girls Club is simply that the mission statements of both organizations are perfectly aligned. That explains why the district has held these discussions with the Boys and Girls Club. They are for and about kids similar to that of the school district. With that in mind, the issues facing both organizations mirror each other. Specifically, both organizations are in need of space brought on by moderate enrollment growth. The thought process was that rather than have both organizations seeking support for capital building projects at the same time, a partnership seemed like a great vehicle to see how we could both work together to support each other’s needs and more importantly, support our kids.

Mr. Johnson’s final question deals with the proposed site for the new Elementary contingent of course, on the outcome of the Nov. 5 election. After considering more than a dozen parcels of land, a site was determined that holds many advantages. I can’t disagree with Mr. Johnson’s assertion that the purchase price may have been susceptible to a seller’s market. However, when one looks at the land space needed to house a school building (regardless of the size), the options narrow. Then we take into consideration the land in the Detroit Lakes community being defined by wetlands, natural gas lines, railroad tracks, and flight lines, well, the economic principle of supply and demand starts to impact the selling price. However, when you consider that water and sewer lines are conveniently located next to this property, the financial advantages as compared to other options around the city make this property very attractive from a financial perspective. Consequently, when we figure in the development costs, we think the District did very well in the selection of the land on Richwood Road both now and as an investment for the future.

Finally, Mr. Johnson wanted to know that this district-wide building project has been discussed thoroughly. I can assure him it has. Formal discussions regarding the issue of overcrowding began in 2011. Since then, three separate education facility planning organizations have assessed our space situation. In addition, a Citizen’s Steering Committee worked together to recommend the proposed solution. In August 2013, after more than two years of analysis, many meetings and thorough discussions, the Board of Education unanimously approved holding a bond election for the proposed district-wide building project.

I hope this answers Mr. Johnson’s questions from last week. The District’s preference would be that if people have questions regarding the issues surrounding the building bond election that they call myself or a school board member and we’ll do our very best to get the answers to you as soon as possible. With that said, I’ve answered Mr. Johnson’s questions in this forum with a hope that if he has more questions in the future, that we’ll answer those questions in a more personal venue. — Doug Froke, Superintendent of Schools

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