The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Editorials

November 1, 2013

School bond deserves attention

Why it matters: Schools are key to a region's economic development and taxpayers make significant investments in them

Voters in the Mankato Public Schools district will be asked to approve a $69.5 million bond referendum Tuesday that aims to address significant enrollment gains and the space needs that go with them.

It’s no small matter. It’s important residents be informed on how the district executive team and school board arrived at assessing the need for the proposal. It’s best to learn now before voting so as to avoid buyer’s remorse later.

Here’s what we know:

School district enrollment has grown by 530 students since 2007. Projections show there will be another 757 students by 2017. That’s a 10 percent increase. That figure really isn’t even a projection. It based on students or future students who are already here. School officials use the actual number of new children born in the area to make their projections. In fact, there has been a 1 percent enrollment increase in the Mankato Area Public schools annually for the last 10 years.

The existing buildings and schools cannot accommodate the anticipated enrollment gains. Already some schools are pushing capacity. The East junior-senior high school has capacity for 1,555 students. By 2016, it will need to accommodate 1,794 students, exceeding its capacity by 239 students. Middle school students will grow by 22 percent counting only students currently enrolled and not accounting for Mankato’s population growth.

A new middle school on the East side will take care of some of the enrollment bulge housing a total of 1,100 students and some district technology services will move to the East High School building freeing up room at an overcrowded West High School. The West cafeteria will be expanded for the growth of the student population and to give some breathing room to a site that most agree is jammed getting some 700 students through in three shifts.

For the same enrollment growth reasons, Dakota Meadows will be expanded to include a 6 th grade and make it consistent with the three year middle on the east side. Garfield elementary will be expanded to house a K-6 program and Bridges Community School will also move there adding capacity to accommodate that school’s waiting list.

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