OWATONNA, Minn. (KTTC) – The current building is almost 100 years old, so there’s a lot of agreement change is needed, but not everyone believes a new building is the answer.
Voting continues until 8 tonight to decide whether to build a new high school.
It would expand class size capacity and building safety as well as provide new on-campus athletic facilities.
Some homeowners would rather see renovations to the historic landmark instead of a property tax increase of roughly $275 per year for a median value home.
The current building is a quarter the size of what the Minnesota Department of Education recommends for a high school with the student body of Owatonna, which is roughly 1,500 students.
“I believe that regardless of whether you have kids in school, we are responsible for the amenities that we have in our community, one of them is a good school system,” said Jeff Elstad, Owatonna Public Schools Superintendent. “While I recognize that teaching and learning happens between teachers and students, the facilities that support the needs moving towards the future is all of our responsibility to bring that to fruition. I believe our community is poised to make that next step.”
“I think there’s a lot of different opinions based on what’s going on but I think the consensus is something has to be done.” said Ted Booslis of Concerned Owatonnans for Public Education. “It’s just a matter of do you want it directed into the question of a new building that is an overpay or do you want it directed into let’s gather more community input to come up with what the right solution should be. I think there’s plenty capacity here to do that.”
The school district has pointed out that renovations to the existing building would cause disruption for students and teachers and comes with an estimated $100 million price tag of its own.
Opponents point to the fact that Owatonna’s student population has not grown in the past 10 years.
It should be noted, pre-referendum promised donations have already cut the cost to the community by $22 million.
If the referendum passes, a site would need to be picked and the community would be asked to help in the new school’s design.
Construction would begin in summer of 2020, with a tentative opening date of fall 2022.