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Focus group discusses facility options for hike in student enrollment

WORTHINGTON -- Independent School District 518 organized a focus group meeting Monday night to address potential facility options for the growing student enrollment.

Since 2006, the school district has experienced significant growth in student enrollment, with this year's enrollment figures being 2,590. Enrollment projections for the next four years are expected to reach 2,850 students.

A facilities and grounds committee began meeting this school year to examine the need for space in each school building.

After several discussions, the group put together several options which were discussed at the focus group meeting.

About 80 community members were in attendance at the meeting.

"We received very positive comments," said Superintendent John Landgaard. "We had anybody from people with or without kids in school, retired folks and business owners. It was a good, representative group."

The seven options presented were: additions, new high school at a new site, new high school at the Northland Mall site, repurpose the Northland Mall site for the high school, portables, new intermediate school and maintain current facilities. The first six alternatives necessitates that the West Learning Center building be closed.

Community members learned about the considerations would be required for each option presented.

"We had votings on a regular basis throughout the night," Landgaard said. "The votings focused on enrollment, enrollment projections, special education classrooms, computer labs and ELL classrooms. The reason the focus were on those classrooms were because they represent close to 60 classrooms in all our buildings."

Three of the seven options were more popular among the group based on the votes tallied.

The first option -- additions -- garnered about 13 percent of votes. It would relocate the pre-kindergarten program and Community Education to Prairie Elementary, relocate ALC students to the high school campus, and would require land acquisition to expand the existing high school campus.

At 50 percent, the second option to construct a new high school at a new site would require the district to purchase a 50-acre land and reallocate grade structures at each existing building. Prairie Elementary would accommodate pre-kindergarten -- through second grade. An intermediate school for third -- through fifth grade would be located at the middle school building. Sixth-through eighth graders will form the middle school at the current high school building.

The sixth option received 28 percent of votes. Prairie Elementary would accommodate pre-kindergarten through second grade and a new intermediate school for third-to fifth graders. In addition to the middle school building retaining sixth-through eighth grade, 12 portable classrooms will be included. Land acquisition would be required for the high school expansion to accommodate ALC students.

Landgaard explained that options one, two and six were still the more popular ones among the group after dollar amounts were added to the presentation. The estimated amount for options one, three, and six are; $31.2 million, $42.9 million and $38 million respectively.

The focus group was also informed of the potential annual tax impact that accompanied each option.

"The tax impact is not specific at this point," Landgaard stressed.

Twenty year-bonds for $30 million and $40 million were examined for residential homestead properties, commercial/industrial properties, apartment buildings, seasonal/recreational properties, as well as homestead and non homestead agricultural land.

"The votes were still for (options) one, two and six," Landgaard added. "We might hold more meetings and get more input or began moving recommendations to the board."

A full summary of the presentation and the tax impact will be available on the school district's website at

Daily Globe Reporter Ana Anthony can be reached at 376-7321