The Northfield Board of Education hosts the first of two public hearings tonight on its proposed construction project at Sibley Elementary School. The hearings are at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, December 10 and Tuesday, December 16 at the Northfield High School Media Center.
The District web site seems to have very little info about the plan. All I could find was this on the home page today:
At the November 24th meeting of the Board of Education, the School Board heard a report on the proposed addition to Sibley Elementary School and how it would address space needs across all three elementary buildings and provide greater program equity for students in each building. The Board then decided to hold two public hearings to present the elementary construction proposal to the community and to receive comment.
The Nfld News published an article last week titled Board considers $2.8 million Sibley expansion.
It would add 10 classrooms and 11,700 square feet of space to Sibley Elementary School. It would house two of the district’s three Special Needs programs and 50-75 additional students. It would cost the district $2.836 million, all of which would likely be drawn from the district’s own coffers.
And, on Dec. 22, if everything goes according to plan, the Northfield School Board will vote on whether to carry out the proposed multi-million dollar expansion and renovation project at Sibley Elementary School.
The paper also has an editorial about the expansion in today’s paper.
One interesting element to this decision is that three of the current board members will no longer be on the Board in another month: Paul Hager, Katy Hargis, and Wendy Smith. Newly-elected Jeff Quinnell, Ellen Iverson, and Anne Maple will begin their terms in January.
- Should the current board, which has presumably studied this issue long and hard, make the decision?
- Or should the decision be the responsibility of the ‘new’ board which will have to implement and live with the decision during the next term?
- And how does this ‘decision dilemma’ compare to the City Council making a decision about liquor store land yet this year vs. waiting till the 4 new council member take their seats in January?
I don’t yet have an opinion on either the expansion or which board should make the decision. I’m just irritated that the District seems to have published zero information about the expansion on its website for people to review, especially those who can’t attend the public hearings. Sigh.
12/11 6:30am update:
Superintendent Chris Richardson emailed us late yesterday afternoon that a PDF for the public hearing was now available on their web site. It’s titled: Northfield Public Schools, Proposed Sibley Addition, Facilities Study for Elementary Space Needs, November 24, 2008
While I see that this expansion is for special needs children, I just want to bring up the point that I keep hearing that around the Twin Cities, many schools are closing due to reduced populations and that those glowing reports of population growth throughout the local counties of 10-20 million people by 2020 has been greatly exaggerated and much lower estimates are now being used. Sorry, I don’t really have a reference but I am sure the decision makers know where to look.
Just saying perhaps reduced enrollment would allow space already in existence to accommodate the special needs.
According to a 2007 state demographer’s report, “the number of married couples with children [in Minnesota] will fall by 24,500 between 2005 and 2015,” reflecting a general aging of the population. The projections for Rice County show the number of 15-25 year olds decreasing between 2005 and 2025. Meanwhile, there seem to be modest rises in the numbers of students being homeschooled or enrolling in charter schools (of which there will soon be three in the Northfield area). Finally, the entire state is facing a devastating budget shortfall, in which many services are facing drastic cuts. Unless the school district can make an extraordinarily compelling case for spending nearly $3 million on an expansion in a period of shrinking populations and swelling deficits, I would have to oppose the plans under consideration. But I have no official say in the matter. Damn you, Northfield voters! 🙂
The district website has a copy of the info being presented at the two public hearings on their website. http://www.nfld.k12.mn.us/forms/homepage/nfldproposedsibleyaddition.pdf
Thanks for the info I was wandering about that myself. I think the heavy influx in to suburbia is over anyway, due to rising gas prices. Especially since Northfield is far away from Minneapolis to be considered a regular suburb anyway.
We should apply the same thinking to any other further expansion of infrastructure i.e. widening of 19, commuter rail..etc..etc..
Thanks, Lahna. Supt. Richardson alerted us late yesterday that that PDF had just been added to their website. I’ve now added it to the blog post above.
I essentially endorsed the Sibley Expansion plan on the podcast with Chris Richardson last week.
And then I reread Rob Hardy’s comments in #2 above.
What if the recession is so severe that the legislature reduces the per-pupil funding to the districts? The Northfield School Board would have no choice but to cut teaching staff at some point. The district could suddenly find itself with many empty classrooms that could be used for the Special Needs programs.
I’m now inclined to advise the School Board to wait on its excellent plan. Let the ‘new’ Board assess the economic forecasts while they wait to see what the Legislature does to the funding formulas. A delay in the decision would bump the opening of the new space to 2011 instead of 2010 if the Board decided to go ahead anyway. But that’s a better problem to have than a $3M expansion amidst a cratered budget and a plethora of empty classrooms.
Last week’s Strib: $28 million deficit looms for Minneapolis schools.
The School Board meets tonight at 7:00 PM in the Northfield High School Media Center (PDF agenda) to decide on the Elementary Construction Project.
Here’s my first draft of comments I plan to make at the open mic portion of tonight’s school board mtg. I’m open to revisions!
Griff: Tell them that you have my proxy.
I believe the School Board should wait until the clouds part a little before undertaking the 2.8 million dollar expansion of Sibley. The State of Minnesota expects greater shortfalls in its February forecast and the responsible thing to do is wait. Perhaps space needs could be temporarily met by using churches, NCRC, or a different time schedule for some classes. School Board leadership must maintain strong community support for our excess levy, and minimize other spending until the economic crisis has passed.
I believe the current school board should make the decision as to whether to move forward with the expansion. The board has toured the facilities, has the best information, and, hopefully, has a thorough understanding of the problem. I know there is a real need to serve students now, both the general student population, and those with special needs.
The capital budget provides funds that can only be used for these purposes. I have never heard concerns of declining enrollment in Northfield. Numbers for 2010-2020 from the Minnesota Office of Geographic and Demographic Analysis show an overall population increase in Rice County of nearly 14%, including a 28% increase for 5-9 year olds and a 21% increase for 10-14 year olds. A housing study from June 2007 for the city of Northfield (Randall Gross Associates) predicted a population increase of 2,100 residents over the next 5 years.
I trust the school board, Superintendent, and the business manager to make the right decision in the context of economic and demographic projections. Most importantly, I hope the decision meets our current and future student’s educational needs.
I just got this from Supt. Chris Richardson via email:
I’m at the Board mtg now. I like Chris’ recommendation to proceed with the just the design phase now and wait a few months to see what happens at the Legislature and with the Federal stimulus package.
Sounds okay to me, too.
Motion passed 5-1. Katy Hargis voted no but didn’t explain why. Mike Berthelsen was absent, evidently in a snowbank!
[…] I reported (via a comment and a Tweet), the Northfield School Board met in special session last night and approved Supt. […]
In today’s Nfld News: District OKs revised plan for Sibley expansion.
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