District approves facilities bond approval

Hannah Crawford, Online-Editor-in-Chief

To create more opportunities for students in Stillwater School District 834, the school board has proposed to build an addition onto the high school.  This will provide more room in the high school for the ninth grade students at Oakland and Stillwater Junior High.  The sixth graders from elementary schools in the district will move to the one of the two junior high schools.  This provides students at the elementary level the opportunity to receive a more personalized education.

To explain the transition, social studies teacher and football coach Beau Labore said, “This vision for our school district was born out of a long-range facilities task force made up of community members and fostered by district administration and staff.  It is a comprehensive plan to ensure Stillwater students have access to the best programming which requires some additions and changes to our facilities.   It is a great opportunity for our students.”

“The major plan is to bring the ninth graders to the high school.  Stillwater is one of the few high schools in which ninth graders are not in the building and those districts, like us, have a plan or are in the process to transition as well.  To do that, we need to add certain spaces to the high school.   Moreover, there are plans to upgrade some facilities.  This would enable sixth graders to more to middle schools and create preschool opportunities at each elementary school. Finally, with the sale of Valley Crossing, we have about 500 students that need a place to attend elementary school.   The referendum will allow us to build a new school in the southern portion of the district.  There are other aspects of this process as well,” added Labore about the district plan in a nutshell.

This is beneficial to our community and our students. This is a great time to do it because it won’t be an increase in your taxes. But its subject to community approval.”

— Mike Kaul

The school board took formal action on Feb. 19.  In order for the changes to take place, a referendum needs to be passed.  It will most likely be introduced in May and, if passed, most of the changes should be completed in the fall of 2017.

American Sign Language teacher Naomi Skalbeck is also positive about the ninth graders moving from junior high schools to the high school.

She said, “I hope that if the freshmen are moved to the high school, it will expand the course offerings that students have at the high school.  Personally, I feel like students have a limited choice of electives.  I would like for students to be able to sample a wide range of courses in a variety of areas to find their interests before heading out into the real world and have to pay for the opportunity to sample various courses.”

Though it has been many years since the last time ninth grade students have been in the same school as high school students, it is a norm in the Minnesota school district for students in the ninth grade to attend a high school, not a junior high.

“This is beneficial to our community and our students. This is a great time to do it because it won’t be an increase in your taxes. But its subject to community approval,” said social studies teacher Mike Kaul.

“I’ve been around here for a long time and the ninth grade has not been a part of the high school.  In fact,  when I first started teaching here in 1999, we bused sophomores from what’s now Stillwater Junior High, because that used to be the high school, when it was already overcrowded.  we had to bus sophomores to Washington campus to take their social studies, math and English courses, because there wasn’t enough room in Stillwater Junior High,” he added.

The school board has been discussing this topic for many years and their final plan is now closer than ever to becoming a reality.  The community can expect a final decision in May after the vote on the referendum.