Pelican school a go; EL a no goPublished 12:09pm Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Pelican Rapids School District residents voted Tuesday to fund a $21.9 million school renovation project, while voters from the West Central Area School District rejected plans to consolidate students into a single building and to continue a tax levy for school operating funds.
The contentious months leading up to the Pelican Rapids referendum ended with high voter turnout on Tuesday. The referendum passed 1,426-1,320. The 2,748 votes was 550 more than in March when a similar measure did not pass.
Among a variety of building improvements, the project will include extensive work on classrooms and bathroom as well as a new fine arts auditorium.
The district did not take the March referendum defeat as a sign that the community would not support a large school project, according to Superintendent Deb Wanek. Rather, district leaders worked at making their message clearer this time around.
“We wanted the community to decide,” she said. “We worked really hard on getting information out.”
Wanek is not sure how easy the process of bringing the community together on this issue will be after a divisive run-up to the election. But she is hopeful residents who voted against the plan will eventually see the benefits she believes the project will bring to residents.
“It’s hard to win by such a small margin because we really want it to be a full-hearted community group,” Wanek said. “We need to continue to get the facts out.”
The vote on WCA’s referenda was not as close. The question of whether to close two schools and move all students to a facility in Barrett was defeated 1,515-479. The second referendum, asking whether to continue the district’s current tax levy for another 10 years, was defeated 1,157-810.
According to Associated Press reports, two-thirds of all the operating levies across the state passed.
It is too early to tell what the district’s next step will be, WCA Superintendent Pat Westby said. The current operating levy expires after the 2015-2016 school year, so the district could have two more chances to pass a funding referendum.
“Certainly we’re disappointed, but this is the beauty of the election,” Westby said. “I think it goes to show the passion our district and our communities have for education.
“We’re going to continue to look at our option and try to keep extending our fund balance.”