WORTHINGTON - Despite Independent School District 518’s nearly two-decade-long desire -and multiple attempts - to vacate its aging West Learning Center building, repairs of its roof are now necessary, the Board of Education’s operations committee decided Tuesday.

According to Superintendent John Landgaard, the north portion of the building’s roof has reached the end of its life, which is causing leaking. The building, he added, will need to be used for at least three more years.

Roof repairs are estimated to cost $200,000. The roof dates back to about 1998, said Dave Skog, director of business management.

Despite the Alternative Learning Center soon vacating its tenancy in the facility, the building will need to provide continued space for community education and for the Nobles County Integration Collaborative, which is currently occupying rented space at Minnesota West Community and Technical College. The district may even move its early childhood special education - currently housed at Prairie Elementary - to the building, Landgaard announced.

With a growing enrollment and increasing number of students who qualify for special education services, Landgaard said the elementary and early childhood special education programs are currently trying to operate on top of one another.

“I have a hard time not making moves that are good for kids,” he said about what’s driving the potential move when weighed against possible discontent it may produce.

In addition to continuous failed referendum attempts, within the last two years, the district attempted to collaborate with the city of Worthington and Nobles County on a proposal to build what was termed a WELL (Welcome, Education, Learning and Livability) Center. Under the proposal, the district’s community education would vacate its space in West Learning Center and occupy a newly built location at the former Campbell’s Soup property.

With commitments from each entity contingent on Minnesota legislature bond funding, the project later died when it didn’t make the cut in the legislature’s bonding bill.

The operations committee’s recommendation to allow the school district to let for bids for roof repair will go before the full board during Tuesday’s regular meeting.

Tuesday’s operations committee meeting also heard a 2019 budget update from district accountant Pat Morphew.

Morphew said a combination of student growth, greater-than-anticipated interest earnings and other factors have increased the district’s general fund by $2,446,603 after first budget revisions. He noted, however, that sum includes both unrestricted and restricted funds.

In other school board committee business:

  • The operations committee will recommend for full board approval awarding a two-year lease of district farmland to A&T (Adam and Tim Blume) Acres, who submitted the highest bid at $210/acre between three bidders. The school board said it would award the acres to the highest bidder when it let for bids in December. Board member Adam Blume does not sit on the operations committee.
  • The operations committee also heard an update about the upcoming referendum.

Landgaard said beginning this week district residents should receive informational postcards that outlines the exact annual tax impact on their individual properties should the referendum pass. The district has long provided an estimated tax impact calculator on its website for previous referendums, but with only 3,000 to 3,500 hits on that webpage, Landgaard said there are more property owners that aren’t seeking out that information.

Landgaard said he hopes the extra effort of producing property-specific tax impact information will eliminate what he termed “coffee-shop talk,” which he described as individuals sharing false and misleading information to other residents about the proposal’s tax impact on their property.

 

The full board will meet at 5:15 p.m. next Tuesday at the WHS Media Center.