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Information and opinions given at Kingsland community meeting

Fri, Mar 28th, 2014
Posted in Wykoff Education

The community meeting and facilities discussion held at the Kingsland High School Cafeteria on Tuesday, March 25, 2014 was well attended with school board members, administration, Kingsland staff and residents reviewing a large amount of information.

With a scheduled start time of 7 p.m., district residents began filing into the cafeteria approximately 30 minutes prior. Handouts were provided with identical information as what would be shown on the large viewing screen so residents would have the information to take home with them. Blank note cards were also handed out so attendees could write down any questions they had. Those note cards were then gathered and read aloud one at a time by Kingsland’s administrative assistant Amber Uhlenhake later in the meeting. One or more members of the school board or the administration would then answer the question to the best of their ability. Following the questions there was an open microphone for any person wishing to make a statement or ask further questions.

School board chairperson Doug Plaehn opened the meeting by welcoming everyone and stated that the school board’s goal for the meeting was to provide the information that the board has been talking about and studying over the last 18 months.

Before beginning the facilities discussion Plaehn spent a few minutes highlighting some of the achievements of Kingsland Public Schools. In Project Lead The Way (PLTW) Kingsland received its certification about a year ago, being the first and currently the only school that is certified in Engineering, Biomedical, Science, and Gateway. Kingsland is one of four schools in Minnesota that is piloting a 4th and 5th grade curriculum as well.

Kingsland offers 70 college credits in the College in Schools (CIS) program. If a Kingsland student has the ambition, he or she can earn a two year AA degree. Kingsland’s One-to-One Technology has gained national notoriety. An iPad or netbook has been put in the hand of every student in grades 3-12 and iPads are available to children in Grades K-2.

The discussion then turned to enrollment numbers. Peak enrollment was the 1997-98 school year with 1,033 students. School year 2008-09, which was the last year that Kingsland had the 7th and 8th graders at the middle school, enrollment dropped to 696 students. Enrollment hit a low point with the 2012-13 school year with 609 students. Currently enrollment at Kingsland is 617. Plaehn commented that they are seeing growth in Kindergarten through third grade.

Open enrollment continues to be a factor with 110 students attending other school districts. Plaehn then showed a slide of potential enrollment stating that if Kingsland keeps bringing in class sizes at the Kindergarten level that they are now, which is approximately 60. The growth of enrollment would be about 2 percent per year.

Doug Plaehn explained there have been five study sessions over the last five months related to facilities which were open to the public. Following is a list of items worked on during these study sessions:

•Evaluated ways to complete deferred maintenance

•High School/Elementary School

•Middle School

•Evaluated the ways to improve program essentials, staffing essentials, and technology essentials at the middle school

•Evaluated the high school/elementary school options for additional space

•Preschool and early childhood programs

•Lab space to provide space for PLTW and CIS classes

Physical education

•Increase the number of elementary classrooms

• Reviewed the district’s operational and staffing costs

•Consider options to best address student opportunities and to continue with the district’s missions and goals

Plaehn stated to the audience that “the board members always strive to do what we feel is best for the students” adding, “we really want to make sure we are giving our students the best possible educational opportunity we can.”

The deferred maintenance items were discussed next with Plaehn saying that the most significant ones are at the middle school in Wykoff, Minn.

The list of deferred maintenance items are as follows:

•Middle School

•Mechanical (HVAC) upgrades (aging system, no air conditioning)

•Electrical upgrades (make it safer and more adaptable to technology)

•Roof replacement (leaking roof)

•Gym floor (mercury in the floor)

•Improvements (including parking lot, fire alarm system, communications and other general building upgrades)

•High School/Elementary School

•Unit ventilators

•Air handling system

•Clock system

•Building controls

*Estimated cost is 6.5 million to $7 million.

Plaehn then discussed the program and operational challenges that Kingsland is facing at this time that the school board would like to improve.

•Middle School Program/Operational Challenges

•Lack of continuity in program delivery (disjointed movement of students PK/3 - 4/6 - 7/12

•Less opportunities for staff movement and sharing (less collaboration)

•Access to specialists and administration

•Duplication of costs (technology, food service, maintenance)

•Deferred maintenance items causing air quality issues

•High School/Elementary School Space/Program Challenges

•PK and community education programs continue to grow

•K-3 Enrollment -projecting three sections for 2014-2015 school year (will need to find space to accommodate)

•PLTW and CIS space needs -introduction of project based learning and technology changing the way teaching and learning happens -evolution of curriculum will require more diverse learning space

*Kingsland has received a food chemistry grant and will be adding a food chemistry program next year which will qualify as high school chemistry credits but it requires a food lab

•Physical Education needs -intent of cafeteria was to use as a physical education space (50 percent utilization)

•Shortage of accessible storage space

•Restroom space for elementary is not adequate

The following three options were given as possible solutions:

7-8 Grades to Middle School


•Traditional middle school configuration

•Space available for activities

•Eliminate transportation for winter activities


•Increased costs due to teacher travel time or hiring part-time staff

•Licensure - middle school versus elementary

•Less collaboration in disciplines

•Increased difficulty in scheduling

•Equity/quality in science labs, needed renovations

•Reduction in current educational programming

2-3 Grades to Middle School (one of easiest and least costly options)

•If moved Grades 3-6 - Would require nine classrooms (plenty of room)

•If moved Grades 2-6 -Would require 12 classrooms (plenty of room)


•Busing youngest students daily (increased transportation costs)

•SACC, Pre-school, ECSE and ECFE would not move

•Middle school would require some renovation

•Elementary space converted to high school space

Single Site Concept

*Projects to improve learning

•Lower level renovations

•Labs/project/presentation space

•First floor renovations and addition

•Before and after school care

•Project lab

•Special Education classrooms


•Second floor renovations

•Staff/Technology offices

•Collaborative learning technology lab

•Distance learning lab

•Flexible learning space

*Performing Arts/Music Addition

*Physical Education and Athletics Addition


•Improved learning for all students

•More and improved space for hands on learning

•Flexible schedules to increase opportunities for all students

•Enhanced use of technology

•Greater continuity for students and staff

•Simplifying scheduling and transportation

•Improved district facilities and community amenities

•Enhances the experience for all students

•Locker rooms closer to athletic fields

•Improved supervision

•Reduced operating and maintenance costs

•Estimate net savings of $165,000 to $215,000 annually

•Room for 850 students


•Cost of $14 million to $20.5 million (the difference would be the cost of a performing art/music addition if built or not)

•$10.3 million of the $11.8 million of the 2006 bonds still outstanding (final payment February 2027) * this referendum would add taxes on top of that

•Adequate for future needs

•Enrollment - ?

•Room for 850 students (what if KIngsland grows back to 1000 students)

•Find alternative use for or disposal of middle school

•Technology becoming obsolete

Q&A Forum

Amber Uhlenhake then began reading anonymous questions from note cards. Following are some of the questions asked and their responses.

Question: The mercury in the floor has to be removed prior to sale or utilization of the middle school, correct? Would that be a cost for us to incur no matter what even if we leave it open or we sell the middle school building?

Answer: (Scott Stockdale, Building and Grounds Director) “Yes, that is correct. It’s essentially a wash. We need to do something with that floor (at least it’s suggested) whether we keep that building or close it or do something else with it that floor will need to be taken out.”

Question: How many leaks are in the Spring Valley building compared to the Wykoff building?

Answer: (Scott Stockdale) “As far as number of leaks, I don’t know, the leaks in Wykoff have been there longer and so we are putting some specific input into that right now but really there’s leaks in both buildings and there’s not really necessarily more in one than the other at this point and there aren’t really a ton in either place.”

Question: This seems like a $14.5 to $20.5 million gamble. Seriously?! Based on enrollment? Is there a contingency plan for growth?

Answer: (Doug Plaehn) “That’s one of our concerns as board members too...we are pretty confident that we can get 250 kids, we’re at roughly 600 and sooner to be more students but...how long is it gonna take us to get 250 more students...you know that’s really the magic question..”

Question: Were air quality tests done in the gym in Wykoff and what were the results?

Answer: (Scott Stockdale) Essentially throughout Wykoff we have a lot trouble with air movement. HVAC is heating, ventilation, and cooling. At Wykoff currently we have heating, that’s it. And so we do have a difficult time with air movement particularly in classrooms...but also in bigger spaces like the gym and so the testing that happened was specifically in the gym in regard to air quality was in relation to that mercury and leeching through the floor...so when that was tested it tested high...”

Question: Will a steering committee be formed before any final decisions are made?

Answer: (Doug Plaehn) “...it is possible another facilities committee will be formed that will be a lot broader.”

Question: Why do we need more space when the middle school isn’t being used to its potential?

Answer: (Doug Plaehn) “...we don’t really need additional space it’s really about re-utilizing the space we have...if we could re-purpose and re-utilize how we use it, we don’t need more space...whether we have a single or multiple sites we don’t have enough physical education space...”

Question: Is it possible to do a few repairs at a time rather than to spend 6.5 to 7 million at one shot?

Answer: (Scott Stockdale) “it’s absolutely possible, although having said that we’re a little behind on some of these things in regards to deferred maintenance and the sooner that we catch up the better quality we will be able to produce as far as education and atmosphere in the building for our teachers, students, and staff.”

Question: Will we hold 850 students the way we are today?

Answer: (Mr. Priebe) “...if we had 850 from 600 next year I think we would have a significant issue...”

Question: Which schools do you lose kids to from open enrollment and which one do you lose the most kids to?

Answer: (John McDonald) “...over 100 students go to other school districts...the top school is Stewartville...second is Chatfield..third is Fillmore Central...”

Question: Why haven’t you kept up with upgrading the middle school all along?

Answer: (Doug Plaehn) “That’s a very good question and it probably relates to the open enrollment...during the decline in enrollment...the school was having to cut teachers...while your cutting teachers are you going to ask facilities at the same time...you know... your cutting teachers but then we’re going and spending three to four hundred thousand dollars on fixing this building...? So it really came back to the budget...”

Question: Was the new elementary addition built too small? Why not the same three sections as in the old elementary? I thought we voted for the same size building as we abandoned.

Answer: (Doug Plaehn) “Great question. I think at the time when that referendum was going on we were projecting a declining enrollment...but now we are starting to see that trend where its turning so I think with the information that the board had at the time that’s what they came forward with...and I think a lot of it was probably around budget constraints too...”

Question: Deferred costs are considerably less....why even consider one site when the district is already strapped and we’re still paying previous referendums?

Answer: (Doug Plaehn) “We struggle with the exact same question, where should we invest the dollars, where does it make sense to invest the dollars and at what level should we invest those dollars...that is a valid question...that is one of the challenges we as a board struggle with...”

Question: How much is the needed maintenance for just Wykoff? It appears combined Spring Valley and Wykoff on your slide.

Answer: (Doug Plaehn) “...the needed maintenance for just Wykoff is probably in the neighborhood of 6 million dollars...”

Question: You talk about having 850 students have you thought about how many kids would open enroll to area districts once the others have a bus stop in Wykoff?

Answer: (Doug Plaehn) “That definitely is a concern...hopefully that wouldn’t be the trend we would see...we are all still part of the same school district, the same community...”

Mr. Priebe then spoke to the fact that “there is no ill will towards any one town or there is no goal to try to shut out one community and start another. The purpose here is to figure out how to best serve the needs of our kids and how are we going to educate our kids instruction to our kids, not this next year but for the years to come...”

Following the questions attendees were invited to step up to the microphone with any additional comments or questions. Below are some of those comments.

Lois Suckow of Wykoff stated she feels that the Wykoff site is only being utilized to one-third of its capacity and commented “years ago Wykoff could have gone to other schools, but they didn’t, they chose you,” she said. Even though she did not live in Wykoff at the time she has learned that when the school board did that study years ago they created a lot of animosity. Lois said she appreciates what the principal said when he stated they didn’t mean to do it “but you did” she said and stated they have a lot of bridges they have burned and have hurt a lot of people in the Wykoff area. Lois hoped that this meeting was the beginning of making amends.

Lynn Kidd then spoke and disagreed with Lois saying that he doesn’t feel alienated because he knows that Spring Valley people are just as concerned about having to build new buildings when there are facilities in Wykoff.

Steve Heusinkveld then spoke stating that since the year 2000 his taxes on his farm have gone up 270%. He stated that if the school board is considering a referendum he wants hard numbers, the facts. When speaking to Steve following the meeting he expressed that he owns a home in Wabasha County where his taxes have went up 30% compared to 270% in the Kingsland School District.

Jeff Erding then stood at the microphone acknowledging that the school board and the staff have a challenge. He agreed with others that some negative feelings were created and feels the whole situation could have been handled better. He feels the school board and staff are dedicated. He believes the middle school concept is a good one. He noted that there are many people in the community with a lot of expertise that would work with the school board himself included. He urged the school board to form a steering committee made up of people from the district who are stakeholders that have kids here and pay taxes here.

Following the meeting when asked how she thought the meeting went board member Gwen Howard stated she thought that “the meeting went well” and appreciated the large turnout.

As a sign of what the community meeting may have accomplished there were many people who stood in groups continuing the facilities conversation amongst themselves after the meeting had ended. This seems to be a step in the right direction. The information is getting out to the public that the decision affects the most.

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