The Brandon-Evansville School District may be putting another referendum to vote this November. But this one could be half the amount of the one that failed nearly two years ago.
No plans have been set in stone, but at a special school board meeting Wednesday, April 28, Superintendent Don Peschel went through plans, which currently sit at about $13.6 million and include proposed remodels and additions for both the Brandon and the Evansville buildings.
“We just need space,” Peschel told school board members. “Our backs are against the wall with this. (The plan) is as frugal as we can get for what we need.”
In November 2019, a $25.2 million referendum failed. Residents in the district voted on two separate questions and both of them failed. Question one failed by a margin of 59.3% to 40.7%. It would have provided $19.9 million in bonds to convert the Brandon School to a pre-kindergarten through grade 12 school. Those funds would have also been used to demolish a portion of the school in Evansville.
Question two failed by a vote of 971 to 590, or 62.2% voting against it. The question was contingent on the passing of the first question, and would have provided an additional $5.3 million in bonds for a new multi-purpose gym with locker rooms and to add a dedicated space for the Chargers Kid Club, both at the Brandon campus.
After the failed referendum, the school board went ahead and approved spending $7.8 million to improve indoor air quality by replacing the boilers and upgrading the ventilation infrastructure at both the Brandon and Evansville schools. The Minnesota Legislature allows school boards to make necessary health and safety improvements by using long-term facilities maintenance bonds, backed by a local levy.
That work is still being completed.
"This is all conceptual folks. Don’t get locked into it or the number (cost). The cost is based on what we’re seeing today. The actual number is hard to know at this point.”
— Superintendent Don Peschel
Peschel said there are still space needs and that the facilities committee has been working on plans. He said ICS Consulting, the firm hired by the district, has started working on conceptual plans for the remodel and addition projects.
Peschel presented conceptual drawings to the school board at the work session and along with Lori Christensen, a consultant with ICS, went through some of the changes that would be taking place. The two also took notes of the suggestions made by school board members.
As it was only a work session, no action was taken. Peschel stressed that the district is in the beginning phase and that nothing is set in stone and that the plans – and the dollar amount of the project – will change.
Jana Anderson, one of the school board members who is also on the facilities committee, said that the plans as they were presented addressed some of the district’s biggest needs, which include educational space needs and parking.
Anderson also told school board members that “if we are serious about getting this passed, we can’t have everything.” She said that after hearing suggestions for items such as an indoor running track, concession stand and new locker rooms were made.
Peschel told school board members that the goal of the evening was to discuss the conceptual plans – what was liked and what could be changed – and then the facilities committee would take the suggestions under advisement.
“We want to collect ideas and work on plans that we can present to the community,” said Peschel.
At the Evansville campus, the conceptual plan included the addition of two classrooms, commons area, multi-purpose gymnasium and a new parking area. In Brandon, the plan included a new gym with varsity size floor, additional classroom space, a fitness room that could be open to the community and a new storage shed facility that would house a bus, mini bus, van and other items.
"If we are serious about getting this passed, we can’t have everything.”
— School Board Member Jana Anderson
After going through the layout for both plans, Peschel stressed again that these plans will change. He said this is just a starting point.
“This is all conceptual folks,” he said. “Don’t get locked into it or the number (cost). The cost is based on what we’re seeing today. The actual number is hard to know at this point.”
If the district moves forward with its plans, it could go to voters this November. There will be more work sessions, meetings by the facilities committee and a community meeting before a final plan would be presented to the school board for approval.
Christensen told the school board that they needed input from the community and that the community needed to be a part of the solution.
If everything goes according to plan, the new improvements would be completed by the fall of 2024.
The school board did set the next work session, which will take place Tuesday, May 11, at 6:30 p.m.