As the race for the referendum pertaining to school district 742 of the Central Minnesota Region began, hopes among school officials and parents alike were high.
Aspirations of rebuilding Tech High School, a 98 year-old establishment as well as a “state of the art,” renovation of Apollo High finally seemed achievable by education officials and community members, as voters that reside within the 742 district headed to the polls on Tuesday.
District 742, covering the north tip of St. Johns University, all the way down to the southern end of Clearwater serves multiple communities within including; Clear Lake, Clearwater, Waite Park, St. Joseph, Luxemburg, Pleasant Lake, St. Augusta and St. Cloud.
Why is there a Referendum?
As more and more examination of St. Cloud Tech High School as well as Apollo High School were underway, costs of maintaining both reached about $140 million. Apollo High School, like Tech, is starting to age as well, as the 50-year milestone of the school is right around the corner.
This forced the 742-district Board of Education to come up with an alternative solution to this imminent dilemma, by having the 742 community invest more into the educational system in the Central Minnesota area.
How much more, and why?
About $27 million more in taxpayer money which will allow for the Board of Education, to not only completely rebuild Tech and renovate 75% of Apollo into a “state of the art,” facility, but it will also be used to implement high quality safety features in all schools residing within the 742 district. These safety features address what Bruce Mohs, a member of the District 742 Board of Education, say are proactive measures that the Board of Education is attempting to progress, with the passing of the referendum. Tech High School will also relocate to a destination that contains 92 more acres then what they already have, a mere 8.
This referendum will also be used to apply smart technology in classrooms across district 742, allowing students to adequately learn with technology, better preparing them for today’s society.
“Tech High School now was built in 1916, it was built as a school would at the beginning of the twentieth century, narrow halls, narrow stairways, no elevators, no need for any entry ways for people that have special needs,” said Mohs. “There were old boiler systems, they used the best asbestos and the best led pipes they could but in 1916 and 1938 when they added on to it.”
Mohs says that property worth about $150 thousand within the 742 district would receive an uptick in property taxes of how $218 annually.
“I’m 71 years old, but I take some comfort in knowing that I am paying taxes for generations unborn because other generations paid taxes for me,” said Mohs.
Many on board with the “Vote Yes” community felt as passionately about participating in the community investment for the future.
“You know, I’m so excited, I think we become so used to the status quo, we’re used to things how they are, we’re used to the schools,” said Cindy Harner, Co-Chair for Neighbors for School Excellence. “We toured the new high school in Alexandria, and the kids walked into those schools and said ‘wow, I had absolutely no idea what I was missing.’”
All debates aside, the voter turnout for the 742 referendum was extremely high. The forefront participants, as well as supporters of the referendum congregated Tuesday night at the Courtyard Marriot, anxious to hear the results as they were counted at Apollo High School.
Though hopes were high among the group, it wasn’t enough to get the referendum passed. Mohs said that when members found out that the results from the Apollo voting booth were not in their favor.
“That was not what we expected,” said Mohs.
The referendum lost by about a thousand votes, affirming that the community will not see an uptick in property taxes as well as not receive any upgrades in any of the schools residing within the 742 district, for now.
The board of education will be convening in about a week, according to Mohs, to discuss where exactly the Board of Education will go from here. Some say that the referendum may go back up in the spring or next fall. With the prediction of interest rates increasing by the time the campaign is set to take on the ballot again, Mohs says that, that will increase the costs by millions of dollars.
“I’m disappointed, I’m disheartened, I am discouraged, but I am not defeated,” said Mohs.
It may be too soon to determine what will happen with the schools residing within district 742, however one thing does seem certain, that community members are still trying to find a viable option for the districts educational programs, and its youth.