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After ballot defeat, District 518 weighs next move

WORTHINGTON — A little more than a month after voters in District 518 defeated a proposed operating referendum, the district’s board of education is pondering its next move.

0 Talk about it

The board, in a work session Monday night, discussed various topics regarding the future of the district. With regard to the referendum, the board and administrators are looking into a possible mail-in ballot for the operating referendum to be distributed to the public in April.

School officials are still looking into the cost and effectiveness of such a ballot.

“If we don’t get the right information out to the public, it could be another fail,” Prairie Elementary Principal Josh Noble said of the mail-in ballot option. “However, if we wait until November, it does put us even further back.”

If school officials decide to go with a mail-in ballot and it fails, they would not be allowed another attempt until 2015.

District 518 also asked voters in November to approve $38.9 million in bonding for construction of a new intermediate school for grades 3-5, an addition of 56,000 square feet to the high school and additional high school remodeling. Since that did not pass, officials agreed that until the operating referendum issue was solved, they could not move forward with the bond measure — but that it remains a top priority for the district.

An additional topic discussed Monday was the possibility of upgrading athletic facilities. The district is looking to add a soccer field and to upgrade Trojan Field, as well as other projects. Both the operating and the building bond referendums, though, are seen as taking precedence.

Other key points on the agenda were discussion on open enrollment and a possible reduction list.

Officials discussed the possibility of closing open enrollment — either for all schools in the district or just certain grades — if the building bond referendum continues to not be passed.

“I think we have to look at the ramifications of Worthington expanding and what that means for the schools,” District 518 Board Member Steve Schnieder said. “It’s just like adding water to something that can’t hold it – we just can’t fit everyone at a certain point.”

A decision on closing open enrollment has yet to be made, but officials discussed alternatives — such as expanding online classes — to avoid the issue. If the event the next operating referendum initiative doesn’t pass, the district is also examining some possible cuts that could be made to its schools. Cutting certain classes that don’t meet enrollment requirements and cutting supplies were among the suggestions brought forward Monday, and there even is the last-resort possibility of staff reductions.

“I think our past history has shown that we do not make staff cuts, and in fact we have added staff,” Board Chair Linden Olson said. “We would only make staff cuts if it was absolutely necessary and we had no choice.”

Erin Trester
Erin Trester is the crime and city reporter for the Daily Globe. She's a native of Lewiston, MN, but moved to Buffalo, NY to attend college and obtained her bachelor's degree in Communications. She started at the Western New York Catholic Newspaper as a reporter in Buffalo, but in October 2013 she returned to her home state to start with the Daily Globe. Most of her spare time is taken up by her 13-year-old thoroughbred named Faith, but some of her other hobbies include reading, fishing and spending time with friends and family. 
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