ST. PETER — All four candidates for St. Peter Public School Board who participated in Thursday night's candidate forum unanimously agreed on the district's greatest strength: the teachers, by far.
They also agreed on St. Peter Public Schools' biggest challenge: space.
With 100 more kindergartners than seniors who will continue to matriculate through the grades, teachers and administrators are having to get creative these days with where lessons are being taught. As several candidates pointed out at South Elementary, sometimes that means teaching in hallways.
“They're doing the best they can. They're making it work. But it's a problem that needs to be solved,” said the only incumbent, Jon Carlson.
Carlson, Drew Dixon, Chris Harmes and Keith Stelter took part in the forum at the St. Peter Community Center. Charlie Potts and Dan Bergeson couldn't attend. The six candidates are vying for three open seats during the Nov. 5 election.
Facilitated by the League of Women Voters and the St. Peter Chamber of Commerce, the candidates were asked a range of questions about challenges facing the district, as well as its future. When addressing one of St. Peter's most current hot-button issues — whether or not a new school building is needed — all four leaned toward building one as long as the studies continue to indicate community growth.
Stelter said a new school would enhance “community attractability.” Carlson said a new building would alleviate the crowding at the elementary level. Harmes, who took part on the facilities task force last year, agreed and said there's a definite lack of gym, art, classroom and parking space that a new building could help rectify.
Dixon said, when looking long term, young families will be continuing to move to St. Peter for jobs, culture and the “excellent school system,” so a new building would be needed to accommodate that growth.