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District 518 operations committee to recommend surfacing middle school track

WORTHINGTON — The potential future renovation of Trojan Field was discussed in further detail by the District 518 Board of Education during a busy two days of district planning.

Demolition of the existing field is tentatively scheduled to begin sometime in late fall following the football and soccer seasons. Construction would then be scheduled to begin in spring/summer 2020.

In order to accomplish that without any interruptions to sports seasons, however, a track surfacing project to the middle school track will be required first.

The school board’s operations committee will recommend moving the estimated $400,000 surfacing project forward for full board approval at Tuesday’s regular board meeting.

The basic 400-meter, eight lane surfaced track would not only provide a feasible option for the middle and high school track and field programs in spring 2020 as Trojan Field undergoes reconstruction, but would also meet the middle school’s long-term program needs, said Superintendent John Landgaard. The project is expected to include surfacing runways for a pole vault and long/triple jump areas.

More definite project costs won’t be available until the snow melts off the track and the construction company can get a better look. The comprehensive middle school track and Trojan Field reconstruction project is estimated to cost $4.5 million, with an estimated $2.7 million anticipated to come from the district’s long-term facility maintenance (LTFM) fund. The remaining remaining $1.8 million is anticipated to be funded by reserve or other funds.

While board member Mike Harberts expressed he wasn’t opposed to utilizating LTFM funds for the project and understood the need, he asked how the board can move forward with respect given to district residents who voted the project down in August.

“How do we not end up ignoring that (voting) process?” he said. “I have a personal problem with that.”

Board Clerk Steve Schnieder said what the rejected $4 million bond request told him wasn’t that voters want the district to terminate the programs held at that facility, but that they didn’t want to pay for it.

“Just because people say they don’t want to pay for it doesn’t mean it doesn’t need to be done,” he said of the facility, which he called “1950’s vintage.”

Added Schnieder: “I don’t know what other options we really have. We either plan for it accordingly or we say, ‘well, the public voted that they don’t want it’ and we tell everybody else to send your kids home — we’re not going to have any programs anymore.”

What district residents may not know, said board treasurer Linden Olson during a special Monday night work session, is that the field is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“My real fear is that if we don’t do something to it soon — the condition that field is in — if there was an injury, the district could be subject to a mighty big lawsuit because of playing on a field the district knows is in not in good shape,” he said, adding that there are activity directors from other school districts who no longer want to play on it. “That needs to be taken care of before we end up in a situation that we should have never gotten ourselves into.”

Landgaard told operations committee members that the district would be undergoing expensive repairs if the district received an ADA complaint.

Tuesday’s operations committee also considered conducting a survey of district residents that would be potentially be administered by School Perceptions, a company that conducted similar surveys in the Windom and Pipestone school districts. The survey would likely cost the district anywhere between $10,000 and $15,000, Landgaard said.

Board member Joel Lorenz said he couldn’t imagine a survey providing the board different insight than five failed referendums.

Schnieder said depending questions are asked, a survey could help determine which programs are supported by residents, while also providing respondents additional information they may not already know.

Information gleaned from the survey may be helpful to and help guide the new communications position, he added.

Further discussion is expected at next week’s regular meeting without a formal recommendation.

In other board committee business:

  • The operations committee heard that Landgaard has made a request to the Nobles County Board of Commissioners to extend its lease of the Armory Business Center, which expires June 30, an additional 30 to 45 days due to delays in construction of its new Worthington Learning Center/Gymnastics facility. This will be the second lease extension request.

Likewise, the district will ask Minnesota West Community and Technical College for a similar extension of the space leased for the Nobles County Integration Collaborative.

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