Questions can be submitted to the district by emailing Superintendent Melissa Radeke at , or by calling the District Office at 320-395-2521.
FAQ and Responses
What does the proposed building project look like? Can we see some concept drawings? (Click on images for larger sizes.)
1. Why is the District going out with the same design that was voted on in May?
a. The May referendum failed by a margin of only 5 votes. The District determined that such a close election did not provide a conclusive result.
b. Following the May election, many community members who had not voted expressed that they should have, or would have, had they known the election would be so close. This election will give them a chance for their voices to be heard and counted.
c. The District's students' needs have not gone away. The needs, and what the District feels are the most efficient solutions, remain unchanged.
d. Interest rates have come down since the May election and voting in August could allow the District to take advantage of lower interest rates than might be available in the future.
2. Why did the tax impact go down and the referendum amount increase?
a. Lower interest rates, an increasing tax base, and this year's agricultural tax credit increase all worked to reduce the tax impact for the average district resident today, compared to in May. With continued growth, the District is hopeful that the average tax impact will ultimately be even lower than what is currently being projected.
b. The referendum amount increase is the result of changes in the construction market and a less favorable timeline for bidding and completing the additions. Once approved, the District will work to minimize project costs, but for now, we have budgeted for the current construction market.
3. How is safety & security addressed in the referendum plan?
a. We will be creating a secure vestibule inside the main entry so that visitors need to “check-in” with office staff before they can enter the building during school hours.
b. The current drop-off area next to the main entry and across the street from the parking lot creates an unsafe mixture of bus, parent, and pedestrian traffic at drop off and pick-up times. This plan would reconfigure the drop off and parking lot areas to keep staff and students safe.
c. A secured receiving and storage area will prevent unauthorized building access.
d. Office area security will improve monitoring of building access and common areas.
4. What will the added classroom space be used for?
a. The added classrooms are needed to accommodate increased enrollment and to house our Pre-School programs currently housed off-campus in a space leased by the District. Providing additional classroom space will accommodate our increased enrollment and allow us to stop leasing space off-campus as we currently do not have the necessary space available in our building.
5. Why do we need more kitchen and cafeteria space?
a. The current kitchen and cafeteria are undersized for the number of students we serve. The small size of our cafeteria requires us to serve lunch from 10:40 to 1:15 which isn’t ideal for most students. Replacing the indersized kitchen and cafeteria will provide the needed space and allow us to reuse the current space to create three new classrooms at a much lower cost than building new classrooms.
6. How is Industrial Technology included in the building plan?
a. Our building currently has one Industrial Technology classroom. This limited space is in high demand and cannot be easily set up to accommodate multiple courses throughout the day. The proposed plan includes additional Industrial Technology classroom space that will allow us to provide more Industrial Technology courses for more students.
7. Why do we need more Gym space?
a. Our building currently has one gymnasium that is used for physical education by all grade levels during the school day, as well as a recess area for cold or rainy days. This does not provide the space we need for the number of students we have. Phy Ed classes are doubled up which eliminates some PE teaching options due to safety concerns, reduces quality gameplay, and hinders fitness opportunities.
b. Since the school stage is also located in the gymnasium, the space also doubles as an auditorium for theater, band, and choir performances which are often disrupted by other gymnasium activities.
c. Extracurricular activities such as performances, basketball, volleyball, wrestling, and other activities place a high demand on the space during non-school hours. This high demand means that students who participate in these activities are often at the school well into the night.
d. Providing additional physical education space would address all of the issues above and allow our District to host activities that we currently don’t have the space for.
8. Will the community be able to use the new Gymnasium?
a. With the added space, we may be able to host tournaments or other events outside of school hours, and free up the existing gym and stage area for more performances. The District has not discussed how or when community members would be able to use the new gymnasium, but the space will be used for Community Education programs and it may be possible to schedule times where the gym and/or weight room would be open to the public.
9. What if during the construction process, we come across something we didn't anticipate? Have we budgeted for that?
a. Yes, unforeseen conditions are accounted for in the project budget. A standard practice in construction is to have what is called a contingency budget. This budget includes funds that are set aside to address unforeseen expenses that we may encounter during construction.
10. Will taxes for the bond change based on your property value from year to year?
a. This project calls for bonds to be repaid over a period of 20 years. It is likely that property values will fluctuate during the 20-year repayment period. As the District’s tax base increases or as property values increase or decrease, the tax impact on the different properties within the School District will fluctuate. If the District continues to grow, the bond tax impact may decrease over time.
11. Where can I find information about my tax impact?
a. This is published under the Referendum Information portion of the District’s website.
12. Was there any community input on this or did the School come up with this on its own?
a. It was very important for the District to have this be a community-driven, inclusive plan. A facilities task force made up of community members developed a list of needs and reviewed possible options for addressing them. The District then conducted a community survey to determine how to address these needs. The feedback received in the community survey was used to finalize the proposed plan. The plan was then approved by the school board before being presented to the public.
13. The community survey results said that the community would support up to a $10M referendum. Why is a $13M plan being proposed?
a. The community survey results factored heavily into what was included and excluded from the proposed referendum plan. The District reduced the scope of the plan approximately 25% by reducing and/or eliminating portions of the original proposal that the community indicated they may not support.
b. The proposed Gymnasium that was included in the survey was reduced in size and cost to meet the District’s educational needs, resulting in a lower gymnasium cost than was included in the survey. If this addition were to be entirely excluded from the referendum, the District may need to come back to voters with another, possibly higher cost, referendum in the near future. Also, the gymnasium space is needed to accommodate increased enrollment which cannot be supported by classroom space alone.
14. Why didn’t the District break the bond into multiple questions?
a. The Board discussed this option but decided to eliminate portions of the plan that were determined to be lower priority needs instead of adding them as a second question. We felt that on single question consisting of only high-priority needs would provide clarity and a plan that funded the highest priority needs of our District.
15. What will happen if the referendum fails?
a. This plan is the direct outcome of months of community effort and the community survey. As such, there is no “plan B” ready to be implemented. If the referendum would fail, the District will need to go into planning again to determine the next course of action. What we can say is this:
i. The needs won’t go away. The District will need to find some way to address these issues, regardless of the referendum outcome.
ii. The time to address these issues is now – costs will only increase with time. If the District chose to go back to the community to ask for support on the same issue again the costs will almost certainly be higher.
16. What is the review process for this work – does the Department of Education get involved?
a. The School District has provided the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) with the required documentation for the proposed improvements and referendum in the form of a “Review & Comment”. The MDE has reviewed all submitted information to ensure that the project is both fiscally sound and educationally appropriate, which is required before a public vote can take place. The Commissioner’s approval is published in the local paper prior to the referendum vote for confirmation by District residents.
17. How is a bond referendum different from an operating levy?
a. A bond referendum asks voters to support using bond money for the purpose of building projects. An operating levy asks voters to support additional funds to pay day-to-day operating expenses such as instructional resources, utility costs, etc. While both require voter support, the two different funding sources can only be used for the required intent and are separate from one another.
18. Will the community, staff, students, and others have input in the planning and design process after the vote?
a. They absolutely will. Approval of the facilities plan by voters on August 13th will authorize the detailed planning and design process to begin. Just as the planning to this point was driven by community input, the design process will be inclusive and involve interested staff and community to determine criteria, adjacencies, and priorities for all projects to ensure that they are appropriate for our District.
19. Will local businesses and contractors benefit from these projects?
a. After the referendum is successful, the District will work with their Construction Manager and Architects/Engineers on designs to get documents ready for public bidding. These projects will be advertised and local contractors who are capable will be invited and encouraged to bid the project. 1
20. Will there be an opportunity for the public to ask questions and hear information about the bond referendum?
a. Yes, there will be informational community meetings held on July 23rd and August 7th at 7:00 pm in the School’s Media Center.
b. Additionally, if you have a group that would like to meet outside these meetings, please contact Superintendent Melissa Radeke at 320-395-2521 to schedule an informational presentation.
21. Why don’t we build up instead of out?
a. The existing structure was reviewed by design professionals and does not appear to be able to support a second level under current building codes. Adding a second story would require us to provide expensive structural modifications and would not provide the most efficient building layout.
22. Do I have to pay taxes if there is no school in Lester Prairie?
a. Yes, whichever School District serves your home will levy taxes on your home. Lester Prairie school tax rates are lower than most surrounding Districts so changing Districts would, in most cases, cause taxes to increase.
23. Does the amount of the referendum include everything?
a. Yes, the referendum budget includes everything that is needed to design, build, and furnish the new and renovated areas.
24. We had more kids 15 years ago but we didn’t add space then. Why do it now?
a. Over the past 15 years, Lester Prairie and most other School Districts in the state have worked to reduce class sizes and provide more course offerings. These changes have improved education on a statewide basis, but both also require more space per student than what was needed 15 years ago. What was tight then, has now required the District to lease space off-site and if we continue to grow could limit the course offerings available to students.
New programs include:
-All day/Everyday Kindergarten
-Increased Technology and Computer Labs
-Increased Special Education
-Tech Ed Enhancements and Grants
-Title with Reading Corps/Math Corps
25. Why are we not building a new facility?
a. Our building has been well maintained and is expected to serve our community for many years to come. We see no reason to move out of a good building. Also, the cost to replace our building would be substantially higher than the cost of the proposed improvements.
26. Will there be enough space for future growth?
a. An important part of this building plan is that it will allow us to efficiently add classroom space in the future without needing to add more cafeteria, kitchen, or gymnasium space. This means that today’s investment will limit the cost of future expansion.
b. The proposed plan can accommodate increased enrollment of up to an additional 70-100 students if needed. Once our enrollment reaches that level, we would have to look at either adding classrooms or moving some programs off-campus.
27. When would the new space open?
a. With a successful referendum vote this August, the District plans to occupy the space during or before the summer of 2021.