Lake Park-Audubon voters to decide on new school
Voters in the Lake Park-Audubon (Minn.) School District head to the polls today to decide whether to build a $34.3 million school. The new school would house pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade students and would be built along state Highway 10 b...
Voters in the Lake Park-Audubon (Minn.) School District head to the polls today to decide whether to build a $34.3 million school.
The new school would house pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade students and would be built along state Highway 10 between Lake Park and Audubon.
The new building would likely cost the owner of a $100,000 home $368 a year - $225 more than the same homeowner now pays.
While some area residents are concerned about the cost of the proposed project, Superintendent Dale Hogie said major facility issues need to be addressed.
"There's just a significant amount of things that are not in a condition that they should be in our buildings," Hogie said.
The district operates a K-6 school in Audubon and a 7-12 school in Lake Park for the district's 638 students.
Both school buildings have been expanded several times. One-third of the high school space is between 83 and 115 years old and half of the elementary space is more than 50 years old.
Test results showed five areas of the two buildings had higher lead levels than state health standards allow. Rust, corrosion and mold have also been found in the schools. The fourth- and sixth-grade classrooms have no windows or natural light, and bus exhaust fumes enter both buildings through outside air ducts.
Both buildings have many stairwells that pose problems with access, safety and supervision, and the elevator in the Lake Park building does not reach third-floor classrooms, according to the School District's Web site.
"There comes a time when you need to move out of structures and now is probably the time to do that," Hogie said.
The district spent years planning and assessing options for the buildings. A committee of district residents decided a new school would be the best financial and long-term option.
Costs of only essential repairs only are estimated at nearly $7 million. Remodeling and upgrading the schools is estimated to cost $25 million.
"The committee considered every conceivable option and there isn't an inexpensive option for us," Hogie said.
The district expects to save $300,000 a year in operational costs by housing pre-kindergarten through grade 12 in one building.
The state Department of Education has approved the project.
Still, some residents aren't convinced.
"The cost is awfully high," said George Kohn of Audubon. "I think we need some other options."
The vote is a contentious issue in the community. Some signs associated with the election have recently been vandalized - including signs Kohn has on his property. Kohn said two of his signs urging people to vote against the proposal have been stolen and another has been run over a few times by a snowmobile.
The polls are open from 1 to 8 p.m. in the Audubon and Lake Park school lobbies.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526