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B-E school leaders surveyed on priorities

Brandon-Evansville Superintendent Don Peschel (right) and school board member Shane Englund voted for the 10 facility needs they feel are most important. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press)

Security, 21st century educational spaces and compliance with the Americans With Disability Act were the top three facility needs in a survey of the Brandon-Evansville School Board and district administrators.

During a work session last week, board members and administrators participated in a listening session that was similar to the four community listening sessions held recently in Evansville and Brandon.

Dave Bergeron and Lori Christensen, consultants with ICS Consulting, led the listening session. ICS is the firm hired by the Brandon-Evansville School District to help assess its facility issues and needs.

Following a format used by district residents, board members and administrators wrote answers on sticky notes to questions asked by the consultants, who then read them aloud and posted them on large sheets of paper.

During the session, the questions that were asked included the following:

• What are the great things happening in the district?

• What are the biggest challenges?

• If you could write a newspaper headline 10 years from now about the district, what would it say?

• If you won the lottery, and the money had to be spent on the district, how would you spend it?

• What are your expectations for this process?

• What are the district's facility needs?

Here's a look at some of the answers:

Challenges

A common theme among the answers were the aging facilities, or as one person wrote, "tired facilities."

Other challenges included: two separate communities; bringing two communities together; unwillingness to vote on raising taxes; unwillingness to invest or see the need for spending money on the district; and staff and students split between two buildings.

Expectations

When it came to their expectations, there were several different answers. They included: presenting the facts to district residents; solution that best meets challenges and educates students; a clear and defined plan that can be brought to the communities; a consensus on a viable way to proceed; to unify, leave emotions out and make wise decision for the students' long-term success; an approach that points an accurate picture for everyone; and new board members with all the answers.

Lottery

Administrators and board members pretty much had the same thought on what to do if they won the lottery: build a brand new school.

However, there were other, more descriptive answers relating to a new building, such as: build one state-of-the-art building with the latest technologies; build a new pre-K through 12 school in one town and a sports complex in the other; and build a new facility with a five-court gym.

Other answers touched on technology, a sports center and a performing arts center.

Facility needs

The administrators and school board members came up with a list of 17 facility needs. To narrow it down, each person was allowed to vote for the 10 items they felt were most important.

Following is a ranking of what they felt were the most important needs:

• 21st century educational spaces, including commons area, gym, classrooms, one-on-one spaces — nine votes.

• Security — eight votes.

• ADA compliance and plan for 1917 portion of school — tied with seven votes each.

• Pre-K through 12 all under one roof (new or remodeled), more gym space and deferred maintenance plan — tied with six votes each.

• Career and technical spaces, space for fine arts, music, art and band, and parking lots — tied with five votes.

• Daycare space and additional space for pre-K — tied with four votes.

• HVAC system and students in one school all day (no traveling) — tied with three votes.

• Size of cafeterias — two votes.

• Remodeling both buildings and Brandon school bathroom updates — these two did not receive any votes.

What's next?

All listening sessions have been completed and the consultants will be compiling the data. The plan is to present the information at the next school board meeting, which will take place Monday, Oct. 15. Afterward, the information will be posted on the school district's website.

In addition, the district is conducting an online survey. Information will be mailed to all district residents about the survey.

The survey provides another opportunity for district residents to share their thoughts about local school building needs and potential solutions, according to Superintendent Don Peschel.

The goal, Peschel said, is to gather as much information as possible from residents' perspective to develop a plan that will best meet the needs of students, staff and communities.

The survey can be found on the district website under the 2018 Strategic Planning pull-down tab or by going to www.surveymonkey.com/r/V2L8Y87. The survey is compatible for mobile devices and desktop computers. The survey closes on Saturday, Oct. 6, at 11:59 p.m.

For questions concerning the survey or if you need assistance accessing it, send an email to the superintendent at dpeschel@b-e.k12.mn.us or call him at 320-834-4084.

Celeste Edenloff

Celeste is a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press and has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in June 2016 to report on the community she calls home. Besides writing articles for the Echo Press, she has a blog, “Newspaper Girl on the Run.” Celeste is on a continuous healthy living journey and loves to teach bootcamp fitness classes and run. She has participated in more than 200 races with her husband, Al, covering the 5K, 10K, 10-mile and half-marathon (13.1 mile) distances.

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