As we begin the 2019-20 school year and welcome more than 9,000 students from early childhood to our Transition Education Center through our doors this fall, we reflect upon the strong legacy left to us by those who long ago “built the future” we are living today.
This fall, Homecoming festivities will include an All-School Reunion the morning of Saturday, Sept. 28 on the lawn of District Center. Attendees will enjoy free activities including a pancake breakfast hosted by the Lion’s Club, an alumni car show, tours of District Center and the second floor “graduation row” with class photos from multiple decades, and photos with Bear. A special capstone to the morning will be the dedication of Washington Bell, which first hung at Washington School and now will be displayed along with a White Bear statue in the front lawn of District Center. The display project is an Alumni Association gift to the district.
David Gehrenbeck, a 1949 graduate, will also be in attendance at the event with his book that details the first 100 years of the district building on Bloom Avenue. The district’s aging facilities, with the average age of district buildings at over 50 years, was just one of the catalysts for the nearly year-long comprehensive facilities planning process that included a 90-member Facilities Planning Committee composed of parents, staff and community members. Other considerations included the district’s strategic plan, mission and beliefs, which call for the district to act and react differently to best serve our students, families and communities. Teaching in a building constructed decades ago creates barriers to the type of teaching that is necessary in today’s environment.
I have been asked a lot of thoughtful questions while out talking about the bond referendum with community members.
Why is the bond so large? The facilities plan is comprehensive, touching every building and program in the district. The total bond amount is large, but due to smart fiscal management and old debt being paid off, this comprehensive district-wide plan can be accomplished with a tax impact of about $23 per month for the average homeowner. A tax calculator tool is available at the district’s website, www.isd624.org/Bond2019.
When the Facilities Planning Committee unanimously supported the plan they had built together, they discussed the reality that this $326 million bond referendum would be a large investment to be made by community members. At the same time, they also recognized that the comprehensive facilities plan encompasses all district buildings and addresses questions that have been asked in the community for decades.
Is there anything in the plan that can wait? A simple answer to that question is that this multi-year plan is most efficient and cost-effective when built as a package. Because the plan uses all of our district facilities, with students moving into renovated space and freeing up space for other students to move into, the comprehensive plan is one that is difficult to do in stages more separated than what will naturally occur due to the building process. If the referendum is approved by the community in November, planning would begin right away in the fall and construction would continue in phases until the 2024-25 school year.
I look forward to continuing the conversation about the district’s bond referendum, as I will be visiting with community groups this fall, and public meetings will take place at the following times as well:
• 8:30 a.m. on Tues, Sept. 17 at the Senior Center, 2482 East County Road F, WBL
• 7 p.m. on Tues, Sept. 24 at District Center, 4855 Bloom Ave, WBL
• 7 p.m. on Wed, Oct. 2 at Hugo Elementary, 14895 Francesca Ave N, Hugo
• 7 p.m. on Thurs., Oct. 3 at Vadnais Heights Elementary, 3645 Centerville Road, Vadnais Heights
Dr. Wayne A. Kazmierczak, Superintendent of White Bear Lake Area Schools