Endorsed Letters to the Editor
Bond crucial, vote Yes
I will be going to the polls and voting YES on Nov. 5 for White Bear Lake Area Schools' bond referendum, and I encourage you to do the same for the future of our children, families, communities and local businesses.
Did you know that the school district expects a lot of continued growth from both the north side of our district (including new construction) and the south side of our district (older homes being sold to young families moving into our district)? The recommendation to centrally locate the long-awaited one-campus 9-12 high school by renovating North Campus makes the most sense. Changing from the current split-campus high school model to a one-campus high school that would accommodate all 9-12 students has many advantages, including:
• Fewer transitions for students during critical adolescent development stages
• Access to more comprehensive course offerings for all students, including college and career pathway options
• Maintaining important student-educator relationships
• Younger students having the upper classmen to serve as role models
• Siblings would be more likely to attend the same school together throughout their high school years
• Reduced transportation needs for high school activities, such as practices, rehearsals and events
Please vote YES on this very crucial bond referendum. Go Bears!
White Bear Lake
Centralized approach keeps communities united
Why shouldn’t we pursue two high schools within one district? The advantages of two separate, smaller 9-12 high schools supported by one large feeder base of youth are notable. But the disadvantages are massive. We’d still be left as one taxpayer base supporting two high schools and the costs associated with operating separate staffs, teams, fields, and facilities.
Look no further than the Mounds View/Irondale ISD 621 as an example of why this type of set-up tears a community/district apart. ISD 621 operates two separate high schools with one taxpayer base. Every single taxpayer is impacted by any levy (operating or capital) brought forth by either high school. When Mounds View expanded its campus, the taxpayers in both high school boundaries paid for its upgraded facilities. Supporting the constant maintenance and upkeep of multiple high schools with one district is also a challenge faced in the South Washington County ISD 833, where taxpayers support three high schools (East Ridge, Woodbury and Park-Cottage Grove). This separation divides a community and makes it hard to pass future levies. If we go down that road here and build an additional high school in Hugo, it's the taxpayers in White Bear Lake, Birchwood, Gem Lake, Little Canada, Maplewood, North Oaks, Vadnais Heights and White Bear Township who also bear the burden of that expense—not just the residents of Hugo/Lino. And it’s the students who suffer from a fractured district. You create a system of haves/have-nots. The Hugo/Lino students get a nice new facility, while the students served by our district’s other communities are left with aging facilities and little taxpayer appetite for upkeep (after they foot the bill for a new high school in Hugo).
If residents of our district think the cost of this levy is too much to bear, or the proposed location unacceptable, they should brace for the much higher cost of maintaining two separate high schools. Loyalty and support for ONE high school is what makes us unique. The centralized approach presented to voters on Nov. 5 isn’t perfect, but it keeps our kids together and our communities united.
White Bear Lake
We will all be Bears
One large high school or two smaller high schools? This question, asked by Patrick Collins in a letter to the editor Sept. 18, is a question the district has grappled with for decades. It is the question those of us on the 90-member committee were challenged to answer. Mariner High School opened in 1974 to accommodate the student population explosion of the 1970s, only to merge with White Bear Lake High School in 1983, creating a split campus high school as a “temporary” solution to declining enrollment of the ’80s.
Will history repeat itself, or can we learn from it? One large high school will meet the demands of increasing enrollment over the next decade; if the enrollment drops years from now, the move to one high school will still be practical versus two small high schools that become expensive to operate and too small to provide the opportunities our community expects.
What are the pros of having one larger high school? The benefits are many. Beyond (1) helping with the possibility of future fluid enrollment, the renovation of an existing building is (2) fiscally responsible. Not only does one campus (3) eliminate redundancies in staffing, it (4) allows the school district to utilize existing buildings, saving taxpayers millions of dollars. Building a brand new, smaller high school in the area where the growth is occurring would cost significantly more, leaving little money to address aging buildings and growth at both the elementary and middle school levels across the district.
Having one large high school (5) eliminates multiple school transitions which can have a negative impact on students, both academically and socially, and (6) allows a larger variety of classes to be offered.
Finally, (7) district staff understand that purposeful design can make a large building feel smaller. More importantly, intentional programming will help students feel connected to the school community, ensuring student success at a reasonable price. When this new high school is complete, we will be proud of our high school, and we will ALL be Bears.
Tax burden on par, vote Yes
I would like to voice my support for the White Bear Lake Area School’s bond referendum. As the director of a local nonprofit organization, I have had the pleasure of working with the school district on a number of community projects and see how the school district positively impacts our entire community on a daily basis from our youngest learners to our senior volunteers. The school district is always striving to improve opportunities for learners of all ages and improve our communities. Passing this bond referendum coincides with the district’s strategic plan of improving learning environments, improving school safety and building partnerships with the community. As a community member and a parent of children in the school district, I was invited to participate in both the strategic and facilities planning processes. I was very impressed with the inclusive nature of the school district and its willingness to look at this plan from all perspectives. Through a difficult process, the plan being voted on will fulfill the top needs of our growing school district while keeping the overall tax burden of the residents of our communities very much on par with the rest of the metro area and yet still lower than many of our neighboring communities. Please join me on Nov. 5 in voting “YES” for the bond referendum!
White Bear Lake
Vote Yes for economic viability
On Nov. 5, I will be voting YES for the White Bear Lake school referendum. This will be the second bond referendum in my 16 years as a Hugo resident. The first was a vote, narrowly passed, to build Oneka Elementary School due to the overcrowding at Hugo Elementary. Even then, after less than five years, both schools were at capacity, with grades K-2 at Hugo and 3-5 at Oneka, and my three children (now ages 20, 17 and 15) experienced extended bus rides and never attended school together (not to say anything of the inconveniences parents encountered jumping from one school to the other for pick-ups, drop-offs, conferences and concerts).
We were thankful then, as we are now, that the quality of the teachers and administrators compensated for this, but it's not sustainable. We are at that same critical point, but now as a district. It is projected that White Bear Lake will run out of space in the next 5-10 years because of construction in Hugo and home turnover in White Bear. The average building age for schools in the district is approaching 60 years. If we do not build, we will need to pursue "mobile home" options. Meanwhile, all of our neighbors, including Mounds View, Roseville, Stillwater, Centennial, Forest Lake and Mahtomedi, have invested in major infrastructure improvements.
This isn't just a vote yes for students, it's a vote yes for the economic viability of our city, since statistics prove that home values, the health of local businesses and quality of life improves when strong schools serve as a community's backbone. The individual tax base will lower with time, as the cost defrays among a growing population. Additionally, all of the municipalities in the district have low per capita taxes (in 2018, White Bear Lake ranked second to last in tax per capita compared to Minnesota cities of the same size). While the plan isn't perfect, the statistics clearly show that immediate action is imperative. On the behalf of our students, our cities and their respective futures, please consider a vote YES.