Frequently Asked Questions
FAQs from November 3 Referendum
New FAQs posted January 22, 2021
How do school property taxes on ag land compare to our neighbors?
Because Red Rock Central currently has no debt, property taxes are tied for the lowest in the area. If the referendum is approved, Red Rock Central ag land property taxes will be right in the middle of our nine neighboring school districts.
Is enrollment increasing or declining?
Enrollment is less than 10 years ago but over the past 5 years has grown. Red Rock Central’s enrollment in 2017-2018 was 398 students. Our current PreK-12 enrollment is 428. Open enrollment is an issue.
The district had a net loss of 116 students last year as more students enrolled out of the district than enrolled in from neighboring districts. Many of those students attend neighboring districts that are closer to their homes, or are located near where their parents work. A new building is often seen as attractive to retaining resident students.
*Chart updated 1/25/21 to reflect 2011-2016 data from 2018 Student Enrollment Background
*Chart updated 1/29/21 to correct typo on 2017 enrollment to 398
New FAQ posted January 18, 2021
We are a large school district. Why not choose a more central location?
We are very proud to serve students in each of our four towns. We know we cover a large area, but we are dedicated to serving every student. During our lengthy community engagement process on facility planning last year, an argument for a centralized location for the proposed new school was presented. We listened and asked our consultant to provide an option based on this idea. It was more expensive (by about $6 million) and less efficient than rebuilding next to our current building for a number of reasons, including moving the athletic fields, bus garages, infrastructure such as fiber optic internet, holding tank, pumps, generator, electrical and natural gas, etc. In addition, the Minnesota Department of Education, which reviews and approves all new school construction, strongly advises against new schools not built near or in a town or city. Instead the Task Force recommended the option adopted by the school board.
New FAQs posted January 15, 2021
Did the state give the new project an unfavorable review?
Yes, they are unfairly requiring a 60% yes vote by giving the project an unfavorable review. One of their main objections is that we don’t meet a building guideline of “an average of around 200 square feet per student.” If we did meet this guideline, we would have to reduce the building size by 16 classrooms, one gym station and an auditorium, resulting in larger class sizes, a reduction in staff, and fewer academic opportunities for students. Read our full point-by-point response.
Why is there only one polling place for this election?
School districts running a special election (an election not held during regularly scheduled elections) typically combine polling places to save money. The district is entirely responsible for the operation of the election (with training from county elections officials). Early and election day voting is done at district expense, requiring staffing costs and a place to vote. It would be very challenging financially to operate multiple polling locations and challenging to recruit enough election judges, especially in a pandemic. Early voting takes place at the school. Election day voting will use a combined polling place of Lamberton Community Center. Mail-in absentee voting is open to all voters.
New FAQ posted January 6, 2021
I'm confused, what will Question 2 provide?
Question 2 would provide an additional dedicated gym space and a dedicated wrestling room that is not included in Question 1. Our current facility has a wrestling room space, but if question 2 is not approved, that space would not be included in the new facility, causing the wrestling program to share gym space with other sports and activities. It would also take away dedicated storage for wrestling mats and equipment. We currently have two gymnasiums, and are limited in how many classes can use the gyms with activities having to schedule practice time from early in the morning to late in the evening, which is why a third gym space has been added as an option in Question 2. The third dedicated gymnasium would allow us more flexibility to accommodate additional gym classes and activities, as well as additional community use. If Question 2 is not approved, we would no longer have a dedicated wrestling room in our school and space in our two gyms would be even more congested.
New FAQs posted December 23, 2020
Why is Red Rock running another referendum?
We won, but we also lost in November. The operating levy reduction was approved by voters and 52% of voters supported the new building question. Unfortunately, a technicality required a 60% rate of support for the bond levy that would pay for a new school. The needs haven’t changed - our old school is still old and does not meet the needs of our students. The school board unanimously passed a resolution to hold a new, three question referendum on Feb. 9, 2021.
What happens if each of the referendum questions is approved?
A new pre-K through grade 12 school, with a dedicated wrestling room and three dedicated gymnasiums would be built on land near the existing building in Lamberton. The wrestling room would provide the school and youth wrestling programs with dedicated wrestling practice space (as they currently enjoy in the existing building), avoiding use of a gym space and storage space for mats. The third dedicated gymnasium would allow us more flexibility to accommodate additional gym classes and activities, as well as additional community use. The current school, if it isn’t sold to an organization that plans to use it, would be decommissioned and demolished. The school board’s first priority would be to sell the building to a buyer that would repurpose the building for another use.
What happens if the referendum is not approved?
If Question 1, for a new, smaller school, is not approved, we will have to continue to work with the community to find a way to approve a new school - running new elections every year. The current facility is too far past its prime to renovate. The cost to maintain or to renovate is too high, and students would be left with a building that doesn’t meet their needs, and would last a fraction of the time a new school would last.
If Question 2 is not approved, we would lose a dedicated wrestling room, which we currently have in the existing school. Wrestling mats would have to be unrolled and rerolled every day practice is held for the school team as well as youth teams, and space in our two gyms would be even more congested. Our current facility has two gymnasiums, but we are limited in how many classes can use the gyms, and activities have to schedule practice time from early in the morning to late in the evening.
If Question 3 is not approved, and a buyer that intends to use the building can’t be found, the district would have to use a combination of funding sources, including fund balance intended for student learning, to decommission and demolish the building.
How is this proposal different than what was on the November 2020 ballot?
By statute, for an election run within 180 days of a previous election, the school district is required to change the project by 5%. We received feedback from the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) that our square footage per student was too high. We decreased the square footage of the new school in Question 1 by a little over 6,000 square feet by removing the third dedicated gym space, a computer lab and a flexible learning space from the November plan. Question 2 allows voters to choose to add a third dedicated gym and a wrestling room. Community feedback was mixed on whether to demolish the existing school, so we are allowing taxpayers to choose whether demolition should be funded by this bond referendum.
What changes were made to the plans to meet MDE standards?
The original space program was re-reviewed, and a computer lab and studio space were removed from the plan. Red Rock Central currently operates and has operated as a two-section school, the community has supported in the past and recently voted for an operating levy that supports a two-section arrangement. For this reason, the Board did not see reducing the number of general classrooms as an option. A dedicated third gym station was removed from Question #1 and moved to Question #2. The existing building has a dedicated wrestling room, for this reason a wrestling room was added to Question #2.
Why do we need a wrestling room and additional gym?
The current school has a wrestling room, but in order to address feedback from MDE about excess per student square footage, it has not been included in Question 1. Our current facility has two gymnasiums, but we are limited in how many classes can use the gyms, and activities have to schedule practice time early in the morning and late into the evening. The wrestling room would provide the school and youth wrestling with dedicated wrestling practice space, avoiding use of a gym space and storage space for mats. The third dedicated gymnasium would allow us more flexibility to accommodate additional gym classes and activities, as well as additional community use.
Why are you calling out decommissioning/demolition?
We heard during community meetings that many people wanted input on deciding whether to decommission or demolish the Lamberton Building. The district didn’t demolish the Storden, Jeffers or Sanborn buildings when they were closed. Approval of this question does not mean the building will be demolished, just that bond funds would be available if it has to be demolished. The school board’s first priority would be to sell the building to a buyer that would repurpose the building for another use. If no buyer can be found, the best economic solution for the district is to demolish the building to avoid maintenance costs on an unused building. If Question 3 passes and the building is sold, the district can choose not to levy for this expense, and taxpayers property taxes will not increase in the amount needed to pay for demolition. The school board wants what is best for the community when determining the future of the existing building.
What does decommission mean?
Decommissioning a building means “moth ball” or putting the building into hibernation. This includes maintaining minimum heat to ensure water pipes don’t freeze, and shutting down all unnecessary lighting and systems. Maintenance costs would still be incurred. If the building is demolished, the district would use bond funds for actual demolition and Long-Term Facility Maintenance funds for abatement of asbestos tile or other hazardous materials.