Why the April 9 special election matters

Published 9:11 am Saturday, March 30, 2019

By David Krenz

Austin superintendent

Over the past few months you have heard about and received a lot of information regarding the Facility Bond Referendum that Austin Public Schools will be holding to address our Early Childhood Education needs.

Superintendent of Schools Dave Krenz

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We have sent out information to households, we have been making and will continue to make dozens of presentations across the district upon invitation, and all the information, including the length of the Bond and estimated tax impacts, is located on our web site at www.austin.k12.mn.us/pages/referendum2019.aspx.

We have seen several common questions continue to be asked during presentations and through emails and phone calls and I would like to address those here.

•Is there really a need? Currently, we serve over 300 students at multiple locations. Many of the spaces we utilize are inadequate for the number of students using them, but, unfortunately, we do not have a viable alternative. The Community Learning Center is housed in a leased space, and we are unable to make the necessary improvements. Additionally, we have several waiting lists of families wanting to take advantage of our programs.

•Preschool Is not mandated so do we really need to provide it? Preschool is not mandated for every child birth to age four, but for many students who fall into certain educational and socio-economic categories, it is. These are the students whose needs we are trying to meet. We also receive state aid to educate students designated in those mandatory categories, but as with all K-12 students the state requires local districts to provide safe and adequate facilities.

•What have we done to gather community feedback? As with the IJ Holton project, we asked the community to participate in a Facility Task Force to review the enrollment and space needs of the district. The Task Force made a recommendation to the School Board who reviewed the scope of the recommendation. After presenting the recommendation to numerous community organizations, parents and community reduced the scope of the plan to what is being considered on April 9.

•Will this project take business away from private providers? No. The scope of the project is simply to meet our current needs and address the waiting list with anticipated growth determined by the 2018 Demographic Study we just completed. Currently, if we were to include the students on the waiting list, we would utilize 14 classrooms. This project would provide a total of 16 classrooms to allow for future growth.

•What about adult education classes? Currently, half of our Adult Education classes are held at Riverland and we are working with them to move the remaining classes there as well.

•When will the new space be available? The new space would be available in September of 2020. The School Board chose to hold the referendum on April 9 because it allows enough time for construction on the new facility before the current lease at Queen of Angels ends in June of 2020.

I encourage each voter to consider their individual situations and the impact to them and the community before they head to the polls Tuesday, April 9, or utilize an absentee ballot. If you still have questions, please call the district offices at 460-1900.