School Board authorizes administration to develop parameters for a November bond referendum

At the June 10, 2019 regular meeting, the White Bear Lake Area School Board unanimously approved a motion to authorize district administration to develop parameters for a November 5, 2019 bond referendum to address building needs across the district. The parameters will be discussed at the June 27 work-study meeting and acted upon at the July 15 regular school board meeting.

A variety of factors contributed to the need for the facilities conversation and possible bond funding. “The facilities planning process began as a result of the district’s Strategic Plan, increasing enrollment, safety and security considerations, aging facilities and deferred maintenance needs, and the future of educational programming,” said Superintendent Wayne Kazmierczak. 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.

The School Board request for a bond referendum recommendation comes after a nearly year-long facilities planning process that included a 90-member Facilities Planning Committee composed of parents, staff and community members. The committee met for several months to determine how best to accommodate enrollment growth and programs over the next 10 years while being financially sustainable. Their recommendation, which was presented to the School Board in April, consists of updates across the district, including:

  • 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.

The recommendation also includes plans for specific building changes to meet student enrollment and academic needs:

  • 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.

“The plan is comprehensive in nature, creating a domino-effect of solutions to meet the broad needs identified by the committee,” said Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations Tim Wald. “The sequencing built into the plan makes it complex but comprehensive, while it touches each of our buildings in some way.”

The School Board has been receiving updates on the facilities planning process along the way. Due to the extensive nature of the needs and the plan, voter-approved bond funding would be needed to complete the work outlined in the recommendation.

“We owe a great deal of thanks to the Facilities Planning Committee for their hours of research and work,” said School Board Chair Donald Mulliln. “We asked them to develop a comprehensive, long-range Facilities Master Plan to address our students’ needs. That is exactly what they have provided, and they’ve done it in a fiscally responsible manner by incorporating the district’s existing facilities into the plan.”

Complete information about the Facilities Planning process, including FAQs, can be found at https://www.isd624.org/about/facilities-planning.