District 622 asking for $275 million for new schools, improvements


courtesy of ISD 622 Tartan High School has become too congested, as well as the rest of School District 622, according to the school board, which agreed to ask residents to vote on a $275 million referendum for facilities improvements.

courtesy of ISD 622 An ISD 622 middle school overflows with students. The new plan includes building two new schools and renovating five more.

At its Feb. 26 meeting, the North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale District 622 School Board agreed to ask residents for $275 million to build two new schools and renovate five, while closing three schools in the process.

The bond referendum, if passed, would increase the average homeowner’s property taxes by $5 a month. In a statement, the district said the tax bump is so low despite the $275 million construction price tag, because old debt is coming off the books and new debt will be accrued to cover costs. 

The referendum will be put to a vote May 14.

 

Proposal details 

The plan proposes closing Maplewood Middle School on Holloway Avenue, Oakdale Elementary on Glenbrook Avenue and Webster Elementary on Seventh Avenue in North St. Paul. 

Skyview Middle School on Heron Avenue, John Glenn Middle School on Country Road B and Carver Elementary School on Upper Afton Road, all in Maplewood, would be renovated and expanded according to the plan. 

The new schools would be an elementary school on an existing Maplewood site, and a new Eagle Point Elementary where it currently stands on 15th Street in Oakdale. 

The plan would also pay for updating schools with modern furniture and flexible classroom spaces. 

If the referendum passes, construction wouldn’t be complete for four or five years, said district Superintendent Christine Osorio. 

Most of the district’s school buildings are more than 50 years old, crowded, “not designed for today’s learning environment,” and have entrances that could be much more secure, according to the district statement. 

Proposal groundwork began in the fall of 2016, after ISD 622 residents passed a district operating levy.

District brass thought, “How can we make sure not to waste money anymore?” said Osorio. 

ISD 622 brought in a firm to complete an energy audit to increase energy efficiency, but the auditors kept finding all sorts of other problems in buildings.

“’Are you aware that you have someone teaching out of an electrical closet?’” Osorio said the auditors pointed out. “’Are you aware that you have someone teaching out of shower stalls?’”

This inspired a district-wide deep dive into any current or potential problems, like a detailed population forecast of the next five years taking a look at enrollment.

An energy report ballooned into a district inspection, finding cramped school buildings that could up the security at their front doors. 

The district began conducting focus groups with parents, employees and general community members last year to gather information for a plan. 

If the referendum fails to pass in May, Osorio said the district “will rework the plan and go out again.”

 

–Solomon Gustavo can be reached at sgustavo@lillienews.com or 651-748-7815.

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