Citizens voiced their opinions and asked questions Tuesday, May 11, about the Pequot Lakes School District's $33.175 million building bond referendum that district residents will vote on June 8.
The district's third public information meeting was held at the Crosslake Community Center.
Demographics, early childhood and conservative spending were the big issues discussed during the question-and-answer session that took place after a presentation by superintendent Rick Linnell and school board chair Kim Bolz-Andolshek.
Many citizens were interested in the demographics for the school district in the years to come and whether the proposed building projects were entirely due to a change in demographics.
Linnell said one of the parts to developing the proposed building renovations and the bonding referendum was to have demographers put together a forecast for the district over the coming years.
The forecast projects slow growth over the next five years, he said.
Many school board members said the proposed renovations are not only due to the demographic forecast. Many renovations need to be completed soon, and the district is also dealing with space issues.
Many questions concerned the school district's involvement in early childhood education.
The proposed building renovations entail transferring the fifth grade from Eagle View Elementary School to the middle school. Eagle View would then become a pre-kindergarten through fourth-grade building.
Citizens asked why the school was involved at all with pre-kindergarten education.
Linnell said it is federally mandated that children with special needs from birth to age 21 receive education from the school district.
The school system also offers classes for those children without special needs, but school board member Valarie Wallin was quick to add that parents foot the bill for a portion of those costs.
"Parents who opt to put their children in the programs who are not mandated, such as ECFE and school readiness, are required to pay a fee. The parents pay partly for it," Wallin said.
Linnell added that early detection and correction are ways to save the school district money in the long run.
"We have found that the earlier we reach children, the easier and the more cost effective it is in the long term to help them throughout their school years," Linnell said.
Many citizens at the meeting also expressed their concerns about whether the proposed renovations had a lot of "gingerbread," or extra, unneeded items.
In response, school board members and Linnell assured the citizens that there was not going to be any gingerbread, and that they have been and are planning to be very frugal with the taxpayers' money.
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