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District 518 discusses revised strategic/master plan

WORTHINGTON -- District 518 Board of Education members and school administrators began looking to the future during Monday's work session. Members and administrators discussed the district's future goals to be outlined in an updated version of th...

District 518 Administrative Building
The District 518 administrative office. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)

WORTHINGTON - District 518 Board of Education members and school administrators began looking to the future during Monday’s work session.

Members and administrators discussed the district’s future goals to be outlined in an updated version of the district’s strategic/master plan. The plan was last updated more than five years ago.

The strategic/master plan outlines specific goals - and strategies to reach them - for the district as a whole, staff development, each school, special education, the department of teaching and learning, community education, Nobles County Integration Collaborative, extra-curricular activities and technology.

The plan also has a section dedicated to facilities based on priority, which produced some discussion Monday.

Board treasurer Brad Shaffer said he finds it difficult to prioritize any facility project that does not address space constraints.

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“I struggle to see anything as priority one other than K-12 classroom space,” Shaffer said.

Board member Steve Schnieder said it’s important to identify which projects take precedent over others in order to continuously move forward.

“I don’t see how we work on something that isn’t a top priority,” he said. “We have to keep moving forward - and I don’t want people to misunderstand, it isn’t a No. 1 priority - but a top priority that we keep moving forward on when opportunities are available.”

Members also discussed the West Learning Center after what appears to be a change in some District 518 patron perceptions regarding the dated facility.

“Ten to 12 years ago all I heard is that you need to close West, and now all I’m hearing is ‘you’ve used it for 20 years, why can’t you continue using it,’” Shaffer said.

Board vice president Scott Rosenberg said he has heard the same, and said maybe the board should consider if it can meet its needs.

Member Linden Olson said he would like to eliminate short-term stop gaps to long-term problems, and made mention of a study conducted a couple years ago on the facility.

“If I’m recalling correctly, it cost less to build a new building than what it would to bring (West Learning Center) up to code,” he said.

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Schnieder suggested doing a better job educating the public why the district is not interested in continuing to use the more than 60-year-old facility.

Superintendent John Landgaard said it’s important to remember that space issues are not limited to classrooms.

“It isn’t just classroom space that we’re struggling with - that’s the one that is most noticeable - but it’s also the support space, and we’re not addressing that nearly as much,” Landgaard said, adding that cafeteria, gymnasium and other spaces are also lacking.

Also in relation to updating the district’s strategic/master plan, Olson recommended adding language pertaining to culture sensitivity awareness and cultural competency.

“I realize writing something on a sensitive and emotional topic can be difficult,” he said. “It is an extremely emotional topic that has to be done in a way we won’t get negative feedback.”

The plan, which is in the draft stage, will be brought to the board again in November to reflect Monday’s discussion and adjustments.

In other work session discussions, the board and administration discussed potential options to address space limitations, which Landgaard said is important to consider regardless of whether the Feb. 13 bond referendum passes.

“Even if a referendum passes, we’re not going to be able to move into the new facility until at least two years,” he said.

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Possible solutions discussed include reducing the number of course and elective offerings or altering scheduling. Changing the schedule could result in different start and end times, split schedules, multiple graduation dates or a year-round schedule in which a portion of the student population would be off each quarter.

“I don’t like any of these options because they hurt kids,” said board chair Lori Dudley, who recommended the administrative team prioritize the options discussed.

Lastly, the board discussed what involvement - if any - it was comfortable with in regard to street improvements to the road by the Worthington Arena and Nobles County Fairgrounds.

Multiple entities met earlier in the month to discuss the deteriorating road and brainstorm how the entities could potentially collaborate to fund the project.

In a follow-up interview, Landgaard said the board’s consensus was that if the district would become involved, it would more than likely be a contribution through the Worthington Hockey Association, with which the district is already entered into a lease agreement.

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