What $117 million looks like


courtesy of ISD 197 • West St. Paul-Mendota Heights-Eagan ISD 197 is asking residents to vote to approve a $117 building bond on May 8. If it’s approved, all eight of the district’s school buildings will be improved, including Henry Sibley High School.

Hannah Burlingame photos/Review • The science wing has had little to no updates since Henry Sibley High School opened in 1971. Equipment is outdated and well past use, and the labs and classrooms are separate spaces, which does not fit with guidelines set by the Minnesota Department of Education for best practices for science education

Hannah Burlingame photos/Review • The kitchen stations in the culinary space of the family and consumer science section at Henry Sibley High School are set up in a household-type setting. Carrie Hilger, district director of communications, said while this helps with life skills, the space could be updated to be more conducive to culinary arts.

Hannah Burlingame photos/Review • The performing arts space would get updated as well. This includes getting rid of torn carpet and redoing the rooms to provide for better acoustics.

Hannah Burlingame photos/Review • The science wing has had little to no updates since Henry Sibley High School opened in 1971. Equipment is outdated and well past use, and the labs and classrooms are separate spaces, which does not fit with guidelines set by the Minnesota Department of Education for best practices for science education.

Hannah Burlingame photos/Review • The locker rooms at Henry Sibley High School will be updated to help with sightlines and improve ventilation and lighting.

ISD 197 sets bond referendum for May.

 

Back on Dec. 4, the West St. Paul-Mendota Heights-Eagan ISD 197 School Board unanimously approved a resolution that will put a $117 million building bond question before voters on May 8. 

If the bond is approved, it will mean a $7 increase in property taxes per month for the owner of a median-valued home, worth $237,000.

 

The need for the bond

Mark Fortman, director of operations for the district, and Brian Schultz, director of finance, delivered a presentation at the Dec. 4 meeting laying out the recommendations of the facility task force, which looked at the district’s building needs.

The task force, which was made up of parents, teachers, administrators and board members, worked for eight months to develop a comprehensive plan that puts a high priority on fiscal responsibility and education. 

Work done by the task force included staff and parent surveys, physical assessments of district buildings as well as educational adequacy assessments, 14 task force meetings, two inclusive community meetings and input from more than 250 parents, teachers, community members and administrators.

Carrie Hilger, district director of communications, said in a Dec. 21 interview that a question that continually came up in the task force’s work was how to modernize and make sure facilities in the district meet the standards of education experts.

Hilger said 48 percent of the bond money will go toward maintaining basic systems like buildings’ boilers.

Hilger explained the timing of the referendum, pointing out that having the vote in May as opposed to November alongside the mid-term elections, will help with the bidding process by putting it more in line with construction industry timelines, assuming the building bond is approved.

 

What the bond includes

The bond proposal breaks down based on school level. Hilger said the task force toured each of the district’s eight building to see for themselves what work needed to be done.

In the elementary schools, proposed improvements include updating kindergarten classrooms to meet newer guidelines; creating separate gymnasium and cafeteria spaces; creating flexible spaces that support a variety of uses; making facilities handicapped accessible; and addressing other maintenance needs. 

Proposed improvements at the middle school level include increasing seating and the size of cafeterias; creating flexible spaces to support personalized learning, intervention and small group collaboration; repurposing space for staff and parent meetings; addressing maintenance needs; and creating multi-purpose spaces and facilities that are handicapped-accessible. 

There are many improvements proposed for Henry Sibley High School. They include modernizing existing science classrooms; fully renovating performing arts spaces; updating student commons and staff offices to increase flexibility and support collaboration; relocating the stadium and pool to the high school and adding and improving athletic and multipurpose space; and improving the school’s entry and sustainability. 

Hilger said the district has a focus on career and college readiness and there is an area on one level of the high school that houses classes like family and consumer science. 

“We would like to take this whole area and kind of revamp it...to support additional career and college readiness,” she said.

While the goal isn’t to funnel kids into a career path, Hilger said the district wants ways for students to think about post-high school plans.

The district’s pool, which leaks and is located at Heritage Middle School because it was previously the high school, will be closed for a new pool at Henry Sibley, Hilger said.

A new stadium will also be built at the high school, she said, where the track, which is in poor condition, currently is. The track is still used, but some visiting schools refuse to run on it out of safety concerns.

The softball and baseball fields would also be updated.

 

Next steps

Hilger said projects will be phased in terms of when it makes the most sense to do the work – some will be done over summers. If the bond is approved, the work would be slated to be complete by 2021.

She said design work has yet to begin. There will be a chance for community input on the designs.

“Right now, we’re not in the phase of this is the color of the carpet, this is the color of the walls. We’re just not to that point yet,” Hilger said. “That would certainly be putting the cart before the horse.”

An information and communication plan about the proposed bond is slated to be launched for the community next month.


Hannah Burlingame can be reached at 651-748-7824 or hburlingame@lillienews.com.

Rate this article: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)
Comment Here