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R-P survey questions new school initiative

Fri, Aug 27th, 2010
Posted in Education

The results of a district-wide survey by the R-P school district are in. Intended to question 2,500 households on the direction of district facilities, the survey presented two options: Option one is a continuance of the new school initiative and would have the district pursue state funding for the estimated $29 million project. In this, the district would seek funding from the state for 75 percent of the cost and 25 percent in local funding. To secure this state funding, the district would need to demonstrate that the project will "streamline services for significant cost savings and reduce energy usage." The proposal will be for one district facility which would ultimately house all grades, including early childhood.

Option two would see the district continue to maintain rapidly aging facilities and begin necessary remodeling at a cost of roughly $11-12 million ($8.5 million - Rushford building, $2 million - Peterson building, $1.5 million contingency fund). There is no state funding available in this scenario, however, as the Minnesota Department of Education does not support it due to a "multitude" of statutes that are not met and can't be made compliant through remodeling.

Community education director Beth Theede, who guided the confidential survey proceedings, presented the results to the school board at the Monday, August 16th meeting. According to Theede, there were 281 responses to the survey, 82 percent (230) of which opted for continuance of the new school initiative. Twenty-one surveys were returned with only comments rather than a vote. Theede indicated the comments were from both perspectives and had a broad range, from simply writing "No" across the survey to listing suggestions and positive ideas for the district.

One hundred thirty-four of the responses were completed online. That process consisted of a four-step process which pre-empted those who may try to sway vote by voting repeatedly.

While the majority of respondents may have been behind the initiative, the 11 percent survey response rate is not particularly telling. Theede expressed to the board that there is no indicative study that correlates response rate to a majority attitude. The board will be left to interpret the results to the best of their ability.

Superintendent Chuck Ehler recommended to the board that they should not to seek a building referendum this fall during November general elections. He felt there was not enough time to adequately prepare and present a building referendum and he would like to further examine funding ideas and address concerns.

In other news, R-P has met its AYP (Annual Yearly Progress) goal. The district's status is now considered "Safe-Harbor." The goal was not met the previous year, placing the district in a stage of corrective action by the Minnesota Board of Education. R-P must meet AYP for two consecutive years before being taken off the list.

This year, the district scored significantly higher than the state average in several grade levels and areas of reading, math, and science. There were only two instances of the district scoring below the state average.

District ACT results are also showing positive growth by the district. The composite score, at 23.2, is .3 points above the state average. Scores in math and science were significantly higher at 1.4 and 1.1 points higher respectively.

The next regularly scheduled board meeting is Monday, September 20th, at 6:30 pm, in the high school biology room.

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