Answers to frequently asked questions about the referendum.
1. What happens if the referendum doesn't pass? If the referendum doesn't pass we'll need to understand why it didn't pass. The School Board may need to assess the district and community priorities again and decide how to proceed. We can try to keep doing what we currently are doing, but know the limitations and concerns. Visit The Need page to understand why the proposed improvements are necessary.
2. Will the project look exactly like it is designed? The drawings you see are conceptual renderings outlining features that were outlined as primary needs in our community surveys and our strategic planning meetings. They are by no means final. As we share information about the referendum we are listening and gathering feedback. If the vote is successful, there will be more community meetings and time spent with teachers, parents, and families before final designs are selected. 3. How can open enrolled families support the project? Even though our open enrolled families cannot vote, we plan to send information with all our students. Parents are connected and our open enrolled families can certainly advocate and support the project by talking with other parents and family members that live in the district who can vote.
4. How do our currently open enrolled families support the district? At MCC we net approximately 110 open enrolled students. These students bring in considerable operational dollars through the state general education formula and other funding streams. This revenue supports programming that benefits all of our students and in recent years has helped us reduce class size, provide more career/technical education opportunities, and include more opportunities for students to receive college in the classroom opportunities helping them get a jump start on college and future careers and save money in tuition costs.
5. Will the elementary addition at the high school offer summer childcare? We are planning to include multipurpose space that could certainly fit that need.
6. Why don't we remodel and/or add on to Newfolden Elementary? We did study that option. There comes a point where the cost to remodel in dollars and adjustments needed during the school year doesn’t make sense. The cost to add on needs to Newfolden Elementary would cost at least 12 million dollars and disrupt the school year considerable as adding on would result in loss of gym programming or require us to send elementary over to the high school for gym during construction. In studying our energy and operating costs, Newfolden Elementary is our least efficient building costing $1.88 per square foot in utilities per year compared to $0.82 per square foot at our high school and $1.32 per square foot at Viking. Overall, Newfolden Elementary is our oldest building, set on site of the 1916 school building. The gym is the oldest part of the current school built in 1940. The heating is low-efficiency and it would be extremely costly to add duct work and replace the boiler with a high-efficiency boiler. Replacing the building was determined to be the best option for the district in maximizing long-term costs and minimizing disruption to student instruction.
7. Why add on to Viking? Wouldn't it make more sense to bring all our students together in one pre-K to 12 building? We also studied that option. Although it would have advantages to have all our students in one building, it would add and additional $6-8 million dollars to the project carrying a much heavier burden on our taxpayers. Having a dedicated primary school has advantages. The school day length is appropriate for preK - grade 2. All the furniture and classrooms are built with their age and size in mind. It provides a sense of safety and better well being for our parents and families to know their children are together with other younger children. The location of Viking and support of the Viking community is also important to our district. Viking’s vicinity to Thief River Falls and Warren allows some families access to attend our school from those communities. Adding on to Viking is practical and less costly for our tax payers.
8. Why does the concept rendering appear not to allow daylight into existing high school spaces? Please know that at this point the design of the project is not final. There will be more consideration done by the school board and the community if the vote passes and the project is approved. There certainly are ways to incorporate daylighting strategies as part of the addition project to let natural light into the existing high school spaces. Daylighting is important for our students and staff, and we will study additional options. The current rendering is meant to illustrate where we anticipate to locate the addition. Details about windows, wall materials, and fine-tuning the layout will be developed later.
9. What will happen to the junior high softball field in Newfolden? Please know that at this point the design of the project is not final. We anticipate this area will be a multi-use space for football, PE, softball, and track skills practice. The existing field is in rough shape and is typically too wet to use during the spring season. Drainage improvements will be considered as part of a successful referendum.
10. What about the high construction costs right now, isn't this a poor time to build? Construction costs have been high during the pandemic. We are now seeing signs that material costs are starting to drop. Right now is an optimal time to plan for building next year. Interest rates are low. The farm to school credit provides a significant amount of aid to support our farmers. Competition in bidding is offsetting some of these high costs. We know many of you are concerned about the high construction costs especially lumber. Lumber is not used much in school construction.
11. What about Enbridge tax lawsuit? We have received many questions about how the outcome of the Enbridge tax lawsuit might affect our school district’s building project. The short answer is, it won’t. At the end of the June special session the state of Minnesota tax bill passed, which includes a measure for Local Government Grants. These grants will pay off the tax refund owed to the Enbridge pipeline based on assessments from years 2012 to 2018. Each county affected will receive grant money to cover refunds owed by the county and other taxing districts within the county. This is great news for our school district, county, and other rural areas affected by the tax court ruling.
Enbridge is a significant property tax payer in our district paying for 32% of the cost of the project costs in tax year 2022 and will pay a high cost of the project throughout the duration should the project be approved.