8/4/2022 12:34:00 PM Vote yes on school bond referendum
By Nashia Baldus, Trish Bly, Shawna Felton and Elyse Struckman In today's environment, there is doubt, fear, struggles, and uncertainty everywhere. What we water in our garden is what we will grow. So, we ask you these questions, about time - When is the right time to propose a bond referendum? Is there a right time if we are looking at right here and right now? Or is it considered a long-term investment with a long-term vision? There have been many opinions expressed about the upcoming bond referendum. Each and every person has a right to their opinion, it is their perspective, it is their passion - it is personal. This makes it imperative that we shift the narrative from emotional, and look at it through the lens of bettering the foundation for the FUTURE of Stewartville, for our CHILDREN, our STUDENTS. That is all any of us want. We believe that our community members have the best intentions for our children and their future. Quality public schools are the foundation of a well-functioning community, and we need Stewartville to invest in our public schools for the betterment of our future. The Time IS NOW: Some of you may be wondering "How did we get here?" Why a bond referendum now? The school district has been evaluating facilities and planning for the future for YEARS: 2018: Districtwide strategic planning: one of the four bold steps was facilities and assessing the district as a whole 2019: Initiated a contract with SiteLogic (consulting company specializing in schools) to start assessments. 2020: Facility assessments were put on hold due to COVID-19. 2021: Facility assessments were finished, community surveys were completed, and a community facility advisory team met 20-plus hours over four months reviewing demographics, learning about the current district financial position, considering enrollment trends, various health and safety factors, and sought out community feedback including through a survey. 2022: The community facility advisory team presented recommendations to the School Board and the district facilities team reviewed the detailed and comprehensive report from SiteLogic. A list of needs was comprised from this detailed report, and an estimated $12 million worth of projects was able to be done this summer without ANY tax impact. The remainder of the list is what is listed for the bond referendum for Aug. 9. Central Education Center: Central has been the home to thousands of Stewartville Tigers over the years. From high school to preschool, Tigers of all ages have walked the halls of Central. Many of you may have fond memories of your time at Central, and our current staff and students do too. That said, Central is old and outdated, and needs updates and renovations to be current with the quality of education that Stewartville Public Schools is known for. We want the best for our students, and we know that you do too. The Central Education Center is now home to nearly 175 preschool and Tiger Tot students, and we are fortunate to have the educational spaces to support our students and families. Central is the first stepping stone into the district, and for many families is their first exposure to Stewartville Public Schools. The future of Stewartville deserves future-forward thinking facilities to accommodate 21st century programming. Now is the time to be investing in our youth and in our community! As you know, a good portion of the first question on the bond referendum is asking for funding to build a Community Education Center. This includes our School Readiness preschool program, federally mandated Early Childhood Special Education services, and Tiger Time, our district's school age childcare. Over the years, the expectations for children in kindergarten have increased in difficulty, which has increased the need for preschool programming to ensure all students entering kindergarten are ready. In addition, equal access to School Readiness preschool programming provides opportunities for early intervention support for our young children, to further prepare them for their educational journey. Tiger Time provides quality child care for the youth in our community in grades PreK through fifth grade. Students enrolled in Tiger Tots are able to attend preschool and receive their child care programming within the same building - this is a great service for the families in our community! Tiger Time is a service that has been fully embraced by our community and is an exceptional asset. Tiger Time provides a safe, enriching environment for many of our youth in Stewartville and has for numerous years. Our Tiger Tot and Tiger Time children deserve equitable, age appropriate and updated space. Preschool and Tiger Time are foundational building blocks and supports for our school district. We NEED equitable and age-appropriate educational spaces for ALL Stewartville's students. Now that we know better, let's do better! The proposed referendum is for a building bond to update our facilities. This money can be used only for facilities and cannot be used for operating expenses. The tuition families pay for preschool and Tiger Time programming is used to support the operations costs such as: staff salaries and instructional supplies. Safe and secure schools: The safety of the students attending our schools is a HIGH priority. Families trust that their children will be safe at school, and we need the entrances of our schools to be secure to ensure their safety. There is no amount of money that is too much for the safety of our children. Question 1 includes renovations to Bonner for a secure entrance. The Middle School and High school would also have a fire alarm system upgrade. Question 2 includes renovations to the Middle School and High School for a secure entrance. Updates in Question 1: In addition to funding the construction of a new building, Question 1 of the bond referendum includes the following necessary updates: classroom renovations at Bonner and the MS/HS, including updating the HS science classrooms to meet the current education standards creating a new gymnastics and activities gym at the new building. renovating the wrestling locker room and updating the current gymnastic practice space into a weight room that will support the demand for larger groups of students; and more! Updates in Question 2: Question 2 of the bond referendum includes the following necessary updates to Bonner and the Middle/High School: casework replacement at Bonner and the Middle/High School renovation of Middle School Science and STEM classrooms: there is a high demand, and we need to keep up with the standards cafeteria renovation - The cafeteria was not built for 1,100 students. There are currently four lunch times starting at 10:30 a.m. and going to 1 p.m. Artificial turf field - This is a better field for athletes to play on, and will also allow for use by PE classes, Marching Band, cheerleading, etc., without concerns about damaging the field. Reconstruction of the existing track - The asphalt under the track is breaking down and falling apart. This is a safety issue! The track and field team uses the track as wellas Middle/High School PE classes; * and more! Open enrollment generates revenue: Open enrollment continues to be a hot topic. Whether you support open enrollment or not, Stewartville would not be able to offer our students the opportunities we are currently able to without open-enrolled students. Each open- enrolled student brings $10,000 to the district. This extra enrollment allows the district to offer numerous electives and extracurricular opportunities for all students. Additionally, these open-enrolled families are bringing revenue into OUR community. They are shopping at the grocery store and gas stations, and supporting their children financially at Stewartville school events. Families are choosing Stewartville Public Schools for their children, knowing they will have access to high- quality education, and they bring additional funding that supports all of the students in our community. Vote YES for our future: This bond referendum is about the future of the youth in our community. Stewartville Public Schools is responsible for the education of our children, and as a community, we MUST support the local school district to ensure the success of our students. Vote YES on Aug. 9. Authors include: Nashia Baldus is a Stewartville graduate and a Stewartville School District employee. Trish Bly is a Stewartville graduate, parent and district employee. Shawna Felton is a parent and district employee. Elyse Struckmann is a Stewartville graduate, parent and district employee.