Participants sought for District 88 task force

NEW ULM – District 88 is assembling a community task force to assess strategic facility needs as they relate to school goals, offerings and programs, and make recommendations to the School Board on actions to be taken.

About 12-15 people have expressed interest in serving on the task force, with the district seeking to recruit, overall, about 20-25 such volunteers, according to Superintendent Jeff Bertrang. The district is seeking to recruit people of various backgrounds, for a broad vision that would meet community, as well as school needs, he said.

“The plan has to come from within if people are to buy into it,” Bertrang said. “It can’t be imposed top-down.”

Task force members will be asked to participate in four two-hour meetings, to provide their input and develop their recommendations. The meetings have been scheduled for 4:30-6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 10; Jan. 14, 2014; Feb. 11, 2014; and March 11, 2014.

Concurrently, engineers and architects are also studying possibilities for facility reconfiguration and upgrades, to reflect the district’s strategic vision. Their assessment would be based, in part, on a 2005-07 study and proposals, as well as new input.

The district just completed a survey of staff on current and future needs, Bertrang said. The results of the survey were shared with High School and Jefferson Elementary staff last Monday, and will be shared with High School and District Administrative Center employees next Monday.

In addition, as part of the facilities overhaul process, the school district is currently working with an unidentified group on the potential sale of the District Administrative Center. This process involves considerations such as the lease back to the district of performing arts and gym spaces. The interested group, which will not be publicly identified until the submission of a formal proposal but has expressed interest in the building before, is exploring its potential conversion to a combination fine arts/apartments complex. The district is hoping to sell the building some time this winter.

Upgrades to facilities for potential consideration include, but are not limited to: building on to the high school campus to expand performing arts and gym spaces; re-allocation of grades to sites to streamline grade configuration; and even expanding the campus by buying other properties.

While the more ambitious proposals may remain on a wish-list for some time, the district is working toward the more immediate goal of a facilities bond referendum next fall.

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