Area citizens are well aware of the struggle the Kingsland District has endured in recent years regarding facilities. The defeat of a dual referendum last fall that would have built a sizable addition in Spring Valley, [allowing the District to abandon the Wykoff facility] and increase district income per student did not make the situation any easier. Enrollment continues to decline, exacerbating an already tough situation. It now appears the Board is considering the nuclear option by building a gymnasium and early childhood wing in Spring Valley as cheaply as possible, thus negating the requirement for voter approval. That is a bad idea.
Before revealing the proposed solution, I want to clear up the misconception that I bear ill will toward the Kingsland School Board and Administration. I admire the board members for the commitment they have shown to our District and students. Having served on two facilities committees and attended countless board meetings and study sessions with them, I can say without reservation that each and every one is participating with the best interests of the District and students in mind. Because I have been outspoken in disagreeing with some actions and policy does not negate my utmost gratitude for their willingness to serve. I lack expertise in many areas of school operation, but I do have considerable skills in facilities maintenance. I remain committed to help the District.
Declining enrollment is the big driver of District problems. Some projections suggest further drops in class size perhaps to below 30. But the rapid growth of Rochester could cause a population infusion in the area. No one knows for sure. In 2006, I attended a meeting where a retired school administrator informed us that in 15 years, it is possible only two high schools would exist in Fillmore County.
Having talked with hundreds of District residents, what is the solution? What will voters support? I believe the answer is: Utilize the facilities and space we have to its maximum potential and see where the numbers trend. In five years, we should know.
How can we do that when 10 million dollars are needed for upgrades in Wykoff alone? The answer is we can provide a safe and adequate learning environment at both locations for far less. Regarding Wykoff:
• Forget new boilers, a new electrical service, and a state of the art 100% climate controlled environment. Upgrade the temperature controls and get the ventilation systems working as they should.
• Abate the bad spots in the 1975 gym and repair as needed. Forget new bleachers and baskets. Can we remove the awful plastic seats? Let’s do it, resurface as needed.
• Exterior doors and windows need upgrades? Do it.
• How about the roof? At 12 years of age, it should have eight years left IF properly maintained. Clean the gutters and downspouts, do repairs and maintenance, no need to spend over a million for a new roof.
In Spring Valley, follow the same approach. Roof, security, air quality. But how about facility use?
• Wykoff is underutilized. Move enough classes to Wykoff to free up space in Spring Valley for early childhood and an infant daycare.
•With two facilities, we must have an administrator at each facility to enforce discipline. If we have a full-time superintendent, that person should be one of them.
I believe a building referendum for under five million would pass if properly presented. I believe voters would also approve an operating levy increase to put Kingsland on par with other local schools. The process must be transparent, the scope well defined, and it must be presented in a personal public environment. Six hundred residents signed the petition to keep both facilities.
Why is this the best solution? It positions the District to be prepared for any situation. If student numbers cause a realignment of area schools due to dropping numbers, we have not built new facilities that may sit empty. If student population rises, we could return to a middle school concept with plenty of room without expensive new buildings. If you agree, let our board know. The students deserve our support.
Respectfully, Jeff Erding