GM School District to consider next steps after split referendum

Published 6:53 pm Thursday, November 9, 2023

Now that the votes are tallied and the outcome decided, Grand Meadow Public Schools will now turn its sights to the future.

Following Tuesday night’s election, voters in Grand Meadow split a two-question referendum, approving $2.3 million in upgrades to the dome exteriors and HVAC system, but turning down a $2.6 million question for a Career/Tech/Shop (CTS) expansion and remodeled space to accommodate a growth of students the school expects at the pre-K level.

Superintendent Paul Besel said the school will now turn to an organizational and planning phase that will include working with architects to determine details, costs and timelines for the upgrades, followed by discussions with financial advisors regarding the sale of bonds and funding the upgrades.

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All of this with hopes that work can start work by late spring, early summer and be completed by the 2024-25 school year. Besel compared the passage of the first question to voters recognizing when work needed to be done in their own homes.

“I think that’s what the citizens of Grand Meadow really understood is the life expectancies of appliances and devices in the home. You try to repair as long as you can until you can’t,” Besel said. “It was a very big need and I think people understand that.”

The exterior of the over 20-year-old domes has never been re-coated and the HVAC of the building, aside from maintenance work over time, is original as well.

Voters approved the question 69% (279) to 30.94% (125).

Meanwhile, voters turned down the second question 59.06% (238) to 40.94% (165), which was meant to help the school keep up with the future of educational experiences for students.

“Question 2 was our ability as a community, the ability as a school district to stay at the cutting edge of educational opportunities for students,” Besel said. “The biggest thing is we just have to digest what the community wants to support us with.”

Had it been approved, passage of the second question would have allowed for ground space added for an open shop area, while the top floors would have been dedicated to two new classrooms where graphic design and the arts were to be situated.

At the same time, it would have allowed for revamping of early childhood space in preparation for a growth in student population the school is already seeing.

Besel said that he felt the second question was turned down, not because there wasn’t necessarily support, but that voters might instead be looking at their own margins for spending.

“I think they understand the needs,” Besel said. “One of the things I’ve always said in community meetings is you have to make a decision of what you can afford to support the school with.”

“It’s important to understand people have to look at their own margins and what they are able to help out with,” Besel continued, adding that he wasn’t sure what kind of effect the drought may have had on budgets. “We respect that.”

In the meantime, Besel said administration and the board will go back to the drawing board, analyze and see if there is room in the future to return to the second question.

At the same time, Besel said he was happy with the participation, which in his mind showed a community that cared about the future of the district.

“I was just happy people were happy to exercise their right to vote and help make decisions for the school district,” he said.