January 24, 2023 at 4:13 p.m.

Melrose school district residents voice referendum concerns

Melrose school district residents voice referendum concerns
Melrose school district residents voice referendum concerns

By Herman [email protected] | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

Close to 50 people attended a Jan. 18 community meeting at Extra Innings Bar & Grill in Spring Hill about the proposed Melrose Public Schools building bond referendum, some expressing concerns.

The meeting was one of eight held around the school district between Jan. 10 and 19 to provide information on the proposed $34,805,000 bond referendum. Superintendent Greg Winter chaired the meeting, which was also attended by school board members Lee Uphoff and Melissa Poepping.

If approved, the funds would be used for building and renovating CTE classrooms and labs; construction of and equipping a new swimming facility and converting the existing pool area into a multi-purpose activity space and storage; replacing the high school gym floor and tennis courts; updating locker rooms; Americans With Disabilities Act accessible improvements and site, grading and utility improvements.

Generally, people were not opposed to all elements of the project. Stressed more than once was the need to focus on academics, with one person saying, “A little more education and a little less sports.”

In response to that, Superintendent Greg Winter said the district enjoys a good reputation for college level classes, the entrepreneurial class offered and how the Career and Technical Education classroom improvements would aid in vocational options.

The pool need was touched on. It was noted few schools have pools because of cost and expense but most do find ways for swimming lessons.

Some questioned the size of the proposed pool (eight lanes and 25 yards) or if the district population justified that size pool. It was pointed out eight lanes is the same as pools in Brainerd and Alexandria. Winter stressed the proposed pool would be just a basic pool, unlike what Brainerd and Alexandria currently have in their districts.

“We don’t have the tax base, industry and commercial base that Alexandria has,” Pam Loehr said. “That money has to come from somewhere.”

Cost was behind other elements of the opposition. It was pointed out the pandemic, inflation and declining population are all hitting rural areas.

“Did anyone take into consideration the current financial situation,” Chad Van Beck asked. “It sure does not seem like it. We are in a tough spot right now and you (the school board) decided to run it again.”

His comment touched on something brought up more than once. Voters had rejected a building bond referendum proposal in 2016 and again in August 2022. Why, some wondered, was the same issue being brought up again.

“We just said no,” Van Beck said. “That’s what is so frustrating.”

Van Beck pointed out a survey had said voters would have liked a two-question ballot and wondered why that had not been proposed.

Others wondered how many times the issue could be brought to voters. Winter said there has to be a 180-day waiting period, but that some districts have gone back to school district voters six or seven times.

There were almost no questions or opposition to the concept of the CTE or ADA improvements. They were seen as elements most at the meeting liked about the referendum – elements that improved academics.

Brandon Welle, a district teacher, said the pool and courts were more than just sports venues. He saw them as classrooms.

“All these are classrooms, and learning happens in all areas of the building,” Welle said. “The needs are not going to go away. I understand people have their opinions. Vote how you want, but it’s hard for me to sit back and listen when people say these are not classrooms.”


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