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Paula Quam, Forum News Service, Published October 24 2013

Voters face $59 million referendum for Detroit Lakes schools

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. – Voters will head to the polls in less than two weeks to decide on one of the most significant bond referendums in Detroit Lakes school history.

The $59 million proposal would affect every district-owned building and all of the nearly 3,000 students and more than 500 staff members.

If passed Nov. 5, taxpayers with a residential homestead assessed at $100,000 can expect to pay roughly $133 per year, with that going up proportionally for higher-valued homes.

The bond is for 20 years, and any other debt the district still has on facilities – roughly $4 million – would be roped into the bond.

Preschool students who now attend the Lincoln Education Center in Detroit Lakes would instead begin their educational careers in the current Rossman Elementary building.

The Lincoln Education building, which is owned outright by the district, would then be shut down and likely sold.

The idea of moving to Rossman has Early Childhood Family Education and School Readiness Coordinator Coreen Swenson excited about the little ones being able to spread their wings.

“Preschool continues to grow, and ultimately we hope that all children in the district can get a preschool experience,” Swenson said. “But with the space we have right now, we can’t provide that.”

District officials who work in the administration center on Lake Avenue would relocate to the Rossman building under the proposal. The administration center, which is owned by the district, would be shut down and likely sold.

Elementary grades

All children in kindergarten through third grade would be together in a newly built elementary school 1½ miles north on Richwood and Tower roads.

The 1,000-seat facility would sit on 40 acres on the edge of town, which district officials say would not just allow for optimal traffic flow around the school, but would allow for future growth.

Roosevelt Elementary is overcrowded. Under the plan, student population would go back down for the current K-4 building, because only fourth- and fifth-graders would be housed there.

The bond would also include building a new gymnasium for the school, providing air conditioning for all classrooms, constructing acoustical separation between the noisy cafeteria and the classrooms next to it, and improving the outdoor space for recess and other activities.

Middle and high schools

The middle school would once again become a true middle school, with only sixth- through eighth-grade students. Fifth-graders from Roosevelt have been in the building due to space issues for the past couple of years.

The building, which is deteriorating on the outside, would get new exterior panels, a new outdoor space for recess, and the drop-off/pickup area would be revamped for safety.

Other plans at the middle school include a new gymnasium floor, and heating and lighting improvements.

At the high school, a regulation-size gymnasium is planned. This would open up sporting opportunities that the school’s nonregulation gym can’t accommodate and address the issue of inadequate space for physical education.

Teacher workstations and offices on the second level would be converted into more classroom space, and a large room on the lower level would be turned into a teacher’s lounge/workspace.

The commons area would be expanded, and classrooms throughout the building would be reallocated for more efficient use of space.