Chamber Educational Taskforce

In October, 2015 the Chamber Board surveyed Chamber Members to determine if a position should be taken on the proposed ISD 318 School Bond Referendum. Responses to the survey were split, with a slight majority in favor of the referendum.  Ninety seven individual comments were received with the returned surveys, many indicating that quality education should be a priority for our community. The board sent a letter to the School Board expressing our moderate support of the referendum along with a request to be included in the future process. The referendum subsequently failed by a large margin.

In November 2015, the Chamber Board passed a motion to form an Educational Facilities Taskforce (EFT).  The purpose of the EFT was to facilitate a working process, rather than create specific pathways or make recommendations; and to bridge the Chamber membership, the community at large and the school board to support ISD 318 efforts to respond to the community’s education facility needs. Members of the EFT are Bud Stone, Mindy Nuhring, Roger Hoyum, Pat Medure, Jim Heitzman, Kent Koerbitz, Becky LaPlant and Wayne Roskos.

The EFT met seven times over the winter.  They reviewed the referendum process and information developed and used by the ISD 318 Facilities Group, including internal and external studies, school facilities construction mandates from the Minnesota Department of Education, Itasca County and NE Minnesota demographics, student needs profiles and public presentations pertaining to the referendum. They interviewed subject experts from Foster, Jacobs & Johnson (a school district consultant), school superintendents from Deer River and Northland Community Schools and the past President of the Hermantown Chamber, about their failed and passed school bond referendums. 

Based on their examination of the sources listed above, and resulting discussions, the conclusions of the EFT are as follows:
  • This is a complex issue. To move forward will require a new level of conversations about the education facility needs of the community.
  • The data sources used by ISD 318 leading up to the referendum process were found to be sound.
  • The Bigfork and Grand Rapids High Schools and the RJE Middle School are in good shape but there is a need to not only expand, but to significantly repair and up-date or outright replace the existing elementary school buildings.
  • Educational needs have changed greatly since decades ago when these schools were built. 
Moving forward, the EFT will stay engaged with the ISD 318 School Board and other agencies and organizations to help facilitate the necessary community conversations that will hopefully bring about consensus regarding the methodology to provide the highest level of education for our students.

~Bud Stone

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