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Guest commentary regarding Rushford-Peterson Schools

Mon, Aug 25th, 2014
Posted in All Commentary

By Linda Hovland

Thank You to Brett Kues and Stan Gudmundon for writing a letter to the editor. I am glad that there are people willing to talk about the new school.

Whether you are for or against, I really think that there should be a lot of discussion by both sides before the referendum so that we all make the right choice and all the people will be of the same mind as to why the decision was made. There should be at least one open meeting where the public could come together, not to scream at each other but to voice our concerns and wants and the board should listen to what the people want.

If we are responsible and look at it like we were building our own home, then we should be asking a lot of questions.

1. The first question should be, what can we afford?

It would be irresponsible to look at a $500,000 house if all we can afford is a $100,000 house.

2. The next thing should be, “What do we need in this house?” How big should the rooms be? What kind of heating would be the best for us? Do you need more storage? Are you going to have more kids, or are you going to downsize? How can this house be perfect for us now and years to come?

When I found out that there was going to be another facilities meeting about a new school or remodel the old school, I went to it. I was very disappointed with the architect because he had his own agenda and didn’t even listen to us. They did all the talking and we did all the listening. The reason both committees came with the answer was because we never got to voice our thoughts.

I decided to find some information myself; so I went to the Winona Middle School. They were very welcoming and gave me a lot of information that I thought was very helpful. I wanted to know what they did and if there were changes they would make if they could do it over again. They were very happy with the school and there were only minor things that they would have changed. One big thing that I noticed and did not care for (but I’m old and don’t like a lot of noise) was the cafeteria/commons room. I was there during the lunch hour and it was so loud and vibrated off all of the two story walls. It was like an echo chamber. I also wondered, if it’s 2+ stories high, where is all the heat in the winter? The Superintendent said he hadn’t thought about it but he said it probably wasn’t the wisest decision. It didn’t seem practical to me.

One of the things that was brought up at the meeting was that a new school would bring more families to the area. The superintendent said that they actually lost a whole pod (the school was divided up into sections called pods) and had to bring some of the elementary students in to fill it. Caledonia said they lost kids too. We need to look at the fact that we could lose kids.

3. Look at the location. Will it be safe for our children? Now that we are going past where the school would be located and the extra traffic I am really concerned about our kids safety. I had to stop and wait for three cars to go by when a gentleman stopped his car next to the curb near the corner where the school would be. Same thing happened about a week later. Where will the kids park? It doesn’t look like there would be a lot of parking room on the side of the school so I would guess it would be on the street or in the field across from the school. If they have to cross at a corner, how many kids are going to be killed or seriously hurt by other drivers? This is my biggest concern.

4. This is something that we will be paying for a very long time. You don’t go into this with the attitude of “I want this so I’m going to get it.” You have to be responsible and make wise decisions. Weigh all the options, figure out all the pro’s and cons, then make a wise and informed decision.

I talked to Jeremy Miller and he was very helpful. I asked him about the funding and he said that the state would indeed pay the 60-40 equalization but that would only be guaranteed for two years because they can’t make appropriations for any longer than their term but he thought that it would probably keep going. He was surprised when I told him that the referendum was asking for up to $38.1 million. He said, “what happened to the $20 to $25 million? He suggested that the people should tell the architect, “what can you build for $20 million and what can you build for $25 million. I also asked him if we could build a new school inside the stone walls of the old school. He said that it would be considered a remodel and would not get the funding.

We should not enter into something that could affect a lot of people for a very long time, lightly. Demand a voice and the school board should be willing and open minded to listen to the people and how they feel. There should not be a ballot with only one option. Take it or leave it.

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