In 13 days, statewide voters will go to the polls for Minnesota’s primary election. There’s even more at stake, however, in Worthington Independent School District 518.
Once again, district voters are being asked to consider a bond referendum that, if approved, would result in a new school. There are significant differences, though, between this proposal and the last two referendums that weren’t passed.
We endorsed those bond referendums — and, needless to say, we support the latest plan, as it addresses urgent space concerns within District 518. It’s also worth noting that the new proposal, which authorizes $35 million to construct a 120,000-square-foot intermediate school for grades 3-5, is the product of a significant compromise between school district leaders and individuals who weren’t willing to support much costlier referendums ($79 million in November 2016 and $68.5 million this past February). It should also be added that any necessary amount over the $35 million will be funded through the district’s budget reserve.
There are, in fact, two questions for district voters on the Aug. 14 ballot. While the first question pertains to the $35 million for the intermediate school, a second authorizes the district to make repairs and improvements at Trojan Field. This cost, according to the school board, would be less than a dollar per month for the owner of a median-priced home in the region. Since voters have turned down proposals to construct a new high school, the district has chosen to ask voters to ensure safety at the current high school’s athletic facilities.
By this point, anyone remotely familiar with Worthington’s schools should know they’re not only overcrowded now, but will be even more so in the years to come. It’s clear what will happen if this issue continues to remain unaddressed: the quality of education our students receive would almost certainly suffer.
Individuals who visited other schools in our region, and those of many of Worthington’s Big South Conference rivals, can already see with their own eyes how Worthington is being left behind in terms of facilities. It has been noted that, to merely match the square footage of the average Big South school district, “we would need to add nearly 400,000 square feet of education space to be prepared for the number of students we will have in 2024-25 school year.” (“Addressing needs in an economical way,” District 518’s Brad Shaffer, July 28 issue of The Globe)
Without viable schools, Worthington as a whole will doubtlessly struggle. It should be no secret that strong schools help attract and retain residents, who in turn support their community in a multitude of ways. It’s often said that Worthington needs more amenities, but it will become increasingly difficult for those to be added without ensuring we have dynamic education for our youth.
It should be acknowledged that there are already many who have made up their minds as to how they’ll vote Aug. 14. Writing an editorial supporting our school district, in fact, could be considered by many to be a moot point, considering recent referendum history. Nevertheless, we feel it important to do so on two fronts. One, we believe it’s our mission to champion something that, we believe, will ultimately have a strong positive impact on our community. Two, this new proposal is the result of — as stated earlier — a compromise arrived at with the help of those who weren’t willing to support much costlier measures.
Considering these two points, we stress, should be done without taking into account any personal feelings about our district’s superintendent, or residents who have spoken in support of this and other referendums. The sole matter of importance should be, quite simply, what the kids of today and our future need and deserve. We urge District 518 voters to look at this alone on Aug. 14.