Sparta School District urges residents to stay engaged in referendum process
While Sparta voters approved two referendums totaling $32 million in the April 3 election, it was by no means a mandate.
The primary referendum for $28.5 million to build a new elementary school passed with just 51% of the vote. With that in mind, the Sparta School District is urging residents to stay involved in the planning stage of the process, which begins in earnest this month.
Sparta School Superintendent Dr. Amy Van Deuren points out that in the 14 months leading up to the vote, many community members joined district administrators and staff to determine school space needs, review the results of the facilities assessment, and discuss possible solutions.
"We thank the many members of our community who were engaged in the process, contributing ideas and asking great questions in an effort to be informed about their vote," she said. "Whether you supported the referendum or did not, your effort to be informed and to ask meaningful questions makes the outcomes better for all of us and helps shape the future of Sparta schools."
The need for that input continues as the district considers building functionality and layout, grade and class groupings and transition planning. Those wishing to be part of the process can still join the Community Task Force, which meets again Monday, April 16 from 6:30-8 p.m. in the Administrative & Educational Center (AEC) conference room located at 201 E. Franklin St.
The Elementary and Middle School Task Forces will also continue meeting, and will resume within the next month.
"We are committed to bringing this project in on time, on budget, and with a quality building that will enable us to provide quality educational facilities to all of our students for the next generation," said Van Deuren.
The school board will meet Tuesday, April 10 at 7 p.m. in the AEC conference room to discuss the district's next steps, including:
•Information, discussion and possible action concerning the building project and proceeding with soil borings.
• Discussion and possible action to review and finalize criteria/qualities for Request for Proposals for architect/engineer and contractor for the building project.
• Discussion and possible action to select/ invite potential architectural/engineering and construction firms to submit proposals for the building program approved by the April 3 referendum.
So far, the district plans to build the new school on roughly 26 acres located east of Highway 27 and north of West Division Street in the Town of Sparta. The parcel, owned by Steve Herrman, is currently a farm field. However, the property also includes two undeveloped lots on the north side of Division Street.
The district has a purchase option on the land whose reported selling price will be around $376,000, depending on the outcome of a property survey.
The school board reviewed eight land parcels that met the criteria but chose the Herrman site, which all the elements the board was looking for.
In the second referendum question, voters approved $4 million for renovations and expansions at Southside, Lawrence-Lawson and Maplewood schools.