‘We need a new building’: Glenville-Emmons residents hear more about approving new school

Published 1:47 pm Thursday, May 11, 2023

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Glenville-Emmons School District Superintendent Brian Shanks hosted the first of three public meetings Wednesday evening to pitch to voters why he felt the district needed a new school building.

“If we’re lucky enough to get this referendum passed, we’re going to be looking for input from you,” Shanks said.

He explained the reason why he wanted to do the project now was simply because the current buildings were run down, citing needs for model repairs, including major systems.

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The current high school was built almost 70 years ago, while the elementary building is over 50 years old.

And based on assessments from a group of community volunteers as well as architects and engineers, repairs would cost $18 million  to $21 million for the buildings, and those were just for major repairs.

“The buildings will continue to deteriorate without significant changes, he said.

And if the schools close, the district would dissolve, and Freeborn County would determine where students went. The district’s current agreements with Northwood-Kensett and Lake Mills would also dissolve.

Estimates for a new building for all grades would cost on average less than $20 per month for a home worth $100,000. The annual impact would be less than $240.

Following his presentation, visitors were encouraged to tour the building to see the current issues at the high school. They could also go to the elementary school.

Elise Vols, middle and high school science teacher, has taught at the building for over a decade. But she’s had to deal with a leaking roof in her classroom for the last two to three.

“I think I have about two dozen cans sitting in my room collecting drips and they move, so you don’t always catch them,” she said. “My lab has a larger can collecting bigger drips.”

According to Vols, students were in the middle of a recent test when a stream of water started pouring  from the ceiling. And while she commended her students for their resiliency, she knew students were realizing what’s happening wasn’t typical.

“This is not normal,” she said. “This is not how kids should be going to school… and they got really kind of bothered that it had been OK with them.”

For Mary Branstad, administrative assistant at the elementary school, security was a big concern at her building.

“We have no doors on the classrooms,” she said, referring to the partitions between classrooms.

Compounding the issue, the ceiling also leaks.

Gloria Schroeder, a resident in Glenville who had students who attended the district, said she would hate seeing the school close.

“I think we need a new building,” she said. “I hate to see the taxes go up, but it would be more expensive if we had to go [with another district].”

Former student McKenna Cech described Shanks’ presentation as informative, and said she thought now was a good time for a new building.

“I’m really pushing for it,” she said. “I hope it will pass, and if not now in the future, and I think that this is the direction that it needs to go for future generations growing up in this district.”

Before the presentation, Cech toured the building and said she was surprised at the building’s deterioration in the almost decade since she was a student.

She also asked people to attend one of the presentations instead of voting simply on emotions.

“Get facts and look at the numbers,” she said.

The referendum will be on Aug. 8 and will ask voters to authorize the sale of general obligation building bonds not to exceed $37.42 million “for acquisition and betterment of school sites and facilities including, but not limited to, the construction of a new PK-12 school.”

Because of the Ag2School tax credit, a program that reduces tax burden on agricultural landowners, the state would pay over 43% of the new school (or $16.2 million).

“What this is is an immediate 70% credit for every dollar that we spend on a bond referendum, so farmers would get an immediate 70% credit,” Shanks said. “… It’s not something you have to apply for, it’s nothing you have to sign up for.”

Non-agricultural landowners would not see an increase in their taxes as a result of the tax credit.

According to Shanks, the building would be approximately 81,000 square feet.

Regarding the current buildings, Shanks is hopeful the district can sell them.

The next open house will be at 5:30 p.m. May 18 at the Emmons American Legion, 121 Main St.

Any questions can be sent to Shanks at shanksb@geschools.com or call 507-448-2889.