Survey shows desire for updates to Hammer Complex

Published 10:00 pm Monday, November 20, 2017

The results are in.

During a two-week survey window in early October, community members identified what they appreciate from Albert Lea Area Schools facilities and where they see improvement opportunities for high school athletic facilities.

Community members identified facility updates, safety and accessibility, bathroom and locker room updates and field upgrades as areas of concern on the Thoughtexchange survey.

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Of the facilities included in the survey, district Superintendent Mike Funk said the hockey and soccer facilities were not mentioned much as issues.

“It was resounding: Hammer Field and some gym space issue,” Funk said of the community responses.

Through the Thoughtexchange model, comments are made and then put forward to participants to respond to. Participants can then give star ratings to responses they feel are important to the discussion, which Funk said helps float the community’s main concerns to the top of the response pool.

There were 319 participants in the ThoughtExchange, including 174 parent participants, staff participants, community members and others.

Among the responses, participants said Hammer Complex was overused, needed updates and a larger or duplicate field house, did not meet track needs and needed artificial turf as well as more accessible facilities and handicap seating. In addition, there were comments about the parking lot and a small amount of gym space.

“This is just people with opinions, but this gives the board an idea of what’s being talked about within the community in terms of our athletic facilities,” Funk said.

One of the survey’s three questions asked community members what their questions were about the athletic facility concerns. Overarching areas mentioned included funding and affordability, collaboration prospects between the city and the school, how the complex would be updated and what the priorities would be for upgrades.

Funk said he is hoping to sit down with Albert Lea City Manager Chad Adams later this week or next week to discuss what future updates could look like in terms of city and school interaction. Funk has already had a meeting with architects to talk about what to do with Hammer Field.

In other action:

• Director of Secondary Programs Kathy Niebuhr reported on student success related to meeting the World’s Best Workforce goals passed by the state Legislature in 2013.

The goals set 2017 as the evaluation benchmark for school progress. World’s Best Workforce goals included making sure all students are ready for school, all third-graders can read at grade level, all racial and economic achievement gaps between students are closed, all students are ready for career and college and all students graduate from high school. In addition to the goals set by the state, the Albert Lea school district also set its own goals for each of the categories.

According to Niebuhr, none of the state or district goals were met in Albert Lea for the 2017 deadline.

Albert Lea school counselors have already been meeting to renew the process, and Niebuhr said the goals will not change moving forward into next year. However, Niebuhr said the Minnesota Department of Education may add chronic absenteeism as an area for measurement in the future. Individual buildings have already updated the board over past meetings on how they plan to proceed.

• Teacher and Gobble Wobble committee member Dawn Ware said the second annual Gobble Wobble on Nov. 18 successfully helped fund two $750 scholarships that go to seniors headed into the education field. There were over 70 participants, and the Albert Lea Education Association plans to host it again next year.

• The district’s tobacco policy updates were approved unanimously by the board. Albert Lea High School Principal Mark Grosskalus said the policy change included e-cigarettes on the list of tobacco and tobacco-related devices.

• Niebuhr said members of the Riverland-Perkins consortium traveled to Alexandria as one piece of a grant they have to visit unique and different schools. The group looked at Alexandria’s high school program, which Niebuhr said has tremendous community support. Niebuhr said the group was looking specifically at the positive relationship the school has with the community and how their business partnerships are working.

About Sarah Kocher

Sarah covers education and arts and culture for the Tribune.

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