Board unanimously approves bond referendum question for November 5 ballot

At its July 15 regular meeting, the White Bear Lake Area School Board unanimously voted in favor of placing a bond referendum question to address building needs across the district on the November ballot. The action follows a nearly year-long facilities planning process that included a 90-member Facilities Planning Committee composed of parents, staff and community members. 

The November 5 referendum will request voter approval of bonds to fund the following construction projects that address building needs across the district:

  • district-wide additions and renovations to accommodate projected enrollment growth,
  • safety and security improvements and deferred maintenance projects at all district facilities,
  • district-wide classroom and building updates to create flexible learning spaces.

Building-specific changes, which are primarily driven by enrollment growth and classroom needs, would include:

  • a new K-5 elementary school being built in Hugo,
  • Converting Oneka from grades 2-5 to a K-5 elementary and Hugo Elementary from grades K-1 to a northern Early Childhood location,
  • the current grades 9-10 North Campus receiving an addition to become the district’s grade 9-12 high school,
  • Sunrise Park Middle School moving to the current grades 11-12 South Campus location,
  • the current Sunrise Park Middle School site becoming the site for various community programs including the Senior Center and Early Childhood programs currently housed at Normandy Park, the Transition Education Center currently located in leased space in Hugo, and the district office,
  • Central Middle School expanding to take over the current District Center building.

“This comprehensive plan allows us to accommodate projected enrollment growth and provide safe, secure and healthy learning environments for all students through investments in our aging facilities and infrastructure,” said Superintendent Wayne Kazmierczak. “It will allow us to increase opportunities for students through a single 9-12 high school experience and create flexibly-designed learning spaces to support all of our learners through student-centered instruction.”

The district projects more than 2,000 new students will enroll during the next ten years due to housing growth, which is 25% higher than current capacity. This is on top of more than 7% growth since 2010.

If the bond does not pass, the projected enrollment growth would lead to overcrowded schools, higher class sizes, and insufficient space for educational and community programs. Critical safety security and maintenance needs would not be addressed, and learning spaces would not receive updates to support student-centered instruction. Additionally, the current split-campus high school experience would continue.

“It is critical that we address this now,” said Board Member Ellen Fahey. “If we put this off, we won’t be ready for the kids that are coming. Building costs are not going to stay stagnant, so waiting to address the problem will increase the price tag down the road.”

If approved by the community in November, the tax impact on the $326 million in bond funding would be $23 per month for the average homeowner.

“Thank you to the Facilities Planning Committee, which did a tremendous amount of research and work to develop a proposal that accommodates enrollments and programs over the next 10 years, aligns with our Strategic Plan and is financially sustainable,” said School Board Chair Donald Mullin. “The Committee has delivered a plan that honors our legacy and courageously builds our future.”

More information about the planning process that led to the recommendation can be found at https://www.isd624.org/about/facilities-planning.