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DL School District sets up new sounding board

Detroit Lakes school board members and district leaders are reaching out to the community in search of a solution to its referendum failure.

In the fall, voters struck down a $59 million bond referendum that would have provided the district with a new elementary school and significant district-wide improvements.

So where does the school go from here?

Board members say it’s up to the public.

It is holding a public meeting on Wednesday, January 22 at the Middle School Auditorium at 6:30 p.m.

The idea is for board members to sit back and listen to the community.

“….to say, our bond issue didn’t pass. What are your thoughts? What didn’t you like? What did you like?” said Tom Seaworth, school board member. “We’re hoping people who voted against it will show up because frankly the only way we can do this is through a referendum that the public is behind.”

 Architects who worked on the original plan will also be on hand to help facilitate the meeting; school board members will simply be there as a resource and to take in what the public has to say.

Although the district did form a citizen’s steering committee while forming the first plan last winter, School Board Member Ladd Lyngaas says this time around may be much different.

“Because I think people are so much more informed now on what our needs are in the district,” said Lyngaas. “Since then we’ve held community meetings, we’ve opened up the books and shown them what we need, now they know where we want to go, and maybe after reviewing that they will have some ideas for us.”

Lyngaas says there were many people who came to the community meetings after the proposal was already in place who said they wished they had known about the steering committee that helped form the original plan.

 “So what we want is to get some more people to step forward and be a part of the next steering committee, if that’s what we choose to do,” said Lyngaas, who says if a community steering committee is formed again, they may be taking more of a lead in discussing options with the architects and possibly coming back to the board with a plan or at least some ideas.

The board will also be talking with teachers and school faculty over needs and priorities.

“Our staff, more than anybody else, can help guide us in what we need, and if we have to make changes to the cost, then the staff can help us prioritize,” said Seaworth. “It’s obvious we have needs, but now it’s a matter of getting our staff to make sure we don’t miss something or have the priorities different than what the needs are.”

Board members say they don’t know what the next step will be after the community meeting next month, but hope the citizens will help “steer” them in the right direction.

“Whether that be forming a whole new plan or just taking the old one and changing it around a bit — we just want to find out what the people want and really make this a community project,” said Lyngaas, who points out that anybody and everybody who is interested in becoming a part of this is welcome.

“What we found out during this past election is that we have a lot of people in this community who are passionate about education and caring,” said Lyngaas, “and that’s a great sign going into the future.”

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