It’s mid-summer, which means Mora Schools are busy planning for the start of the next school year. Part of our work is focused on the need to address the serious health, safety and educational issues at our current high school, which serves students in grades 7-12.
We hear from teachers concerning challenges posed by outdated and cramped classrooms/labs and shops not equipped for today’s education standards, which limit their students’ education on a day-to-day basis. As teachers think about returning to their classrooms next month, they’ll continue to struggle with these classroom limitations, as well as, accessibility issues for students with physical challenges, inconsistent heating and cooling, inadequate ventilation, lead in the drinking water, asbestos and a general lack of security.
Last winter, a task force comprised of 26 members of the Mora community finished a year-long commitment to study ways to address the building problems at Mora High School. Using these insights from the task force and a team of school construction experts, the school board has spent the last several months comparing the costs and benefits of various options -- from renovation and remodeling to new construction.
Based on the inputs from the community members, school facility experts and school finance professionals, the school board concluded; building a modern, efficient new wing at our Trailview campus will best serve our students and community in the years ahead.
However, now local residents must decide whether to approve this plan.
The Mora School Board will ask voters to decide whether the district should issue bonds to invest in the new building project on Nov. 5, 2019.
Throughout this review of ways to address the school’s challenges, the school board has been mindful of its duty to use tax dollars in the most fiscally responsible way.
A building plan maximizing the amount of state aid we can leverage means minimizing the tax impact on local residents. Building a new wing to unite all students and staff at the Trailview campus nets more state aid than any other option. It would also allow for the sale of the old high school, possibly returning it to the tax base, similar to the sale of the old Fairview Elementary property to Kwik Trip. In addition, the community would be able to leverage a 50% direct property tax reduction for owners of agricultural land to offset the tax impact of the school construction bonds.
In the long run, our district will use money more efficiently if we don’t have to struggle to pay for higher maintenance costs associated with serving approximately 750 students each year in an 84 year old building. Although continuing to repair our current high school could address mechanical problems, fixing the priority items is estimated to cost $42 million. That figure still would not solve crowded, inadequate classrooms, labs and shops that simply don’t work for today’s curriculum or our ability to improve education for all learners or the street crossing separating the parking lots from the school building.
In the coming weeks and months, the district will be communicating more details about why new construction is the most cost-effective solution to improving our school facilities for Mora’s students.
Our district’s mission is, ‘to prepare every child to be a self-directed, resourceful learner able to thrive in a changing global community.’ We can’t meet our mission without your ongoing support. Let’s move forward united for another fantastic year.
Craig Schultz is the superintendent of schools for the Mora Public Schools District 332. He can be contacted at email@example.com