From: Kevin Haessig
In a few weeks, the voters of the Winona area will decide the fate of the facilities plan that was approved by a majority of the School Board. I am unable to support this plan. I urge you to vote “no” as well. I will offer what I think is a viable and much more logical alternative.
The current plan calls for the closing of all but three elementary school buildings and then adding on to two of the existing buildings to accommodate all the students in a 21st century school setting. The specific plan is to renovate Washington-Kosciusko Elementary School. W-K has two problems that renovation will not rectify. Indeed, increasing the amount of students attending the school will make one of the problems considerably worse. The biggest problem, and one the district cannot possibly change, is the fact that W-K is located on the busiest city street in Winona. If not by total vehicles, certainly by total weight as Mankato Avenue sees an enormous amount of semi-trucks daily. That problem is never going away, is likely to only get worse and in my opinion is a disaster waiting to happen. The other problem is that the land available is insufficient. Some board members have noted that even if the district acquired the entire adjacent block, it would be on the smallish side. The amount that the plan calls for them to acquire is even smaller and lacks enough willing sellers.
Is there a solution? I think so. I obviously have no way of knowing how much any of this would cost, but my gut tells me not substantially more or less than the current plan. It has the added benefit of the school being the owner of two entire city blocks that would be ripe for development, which could ease the burden of taxpayers. Part one of the plan would be to convert Jefferson Elementary School into a middle school. It probably would require a larger building, but there is plenty of room to add on for it. Part two would be to convert the current middle school into an elementary school. The building itself should be plenty big. How big each school needs to be would obviously be determined by which grade levels are placed in it.
The plan puts an elementary school on each side of town. It does not require the district to purchase any private property, which could be extremely expensive. It puts the East End elementary school further away from the high volume traffic of Mankato Avenue. It also locates the middle school within one mile of the high school. When I was a student, there were some students who took classes at both and several teachers who taught at both. If this is the case now, travel time would be a few minutes at most.
In case some of you are asking, “Why bring this up now?” The simple answer is that the idea just came to me this week. Fortunately, it is not too late. The plan currently before the voters is deeply flawed in my opinion and should be voted down. It will mean yet another delay, which is regrettable. However, I think it is far more important that the correct decision is made. Perhaps, if the board decides to look at this plan they can get the number crunchers to work ASAP and hold a new referendum at the earliest allowable date.