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January 24, 2017
School Board Sets April Ballot Questions and Amount

At the January 22 School Board meeting, the 318 Board unanimously approved two ballot questions. On April 10, voters have the opportunity to vote on a plan to build two new neighborhood K-5 elementary schools in Grand Rapids, to remodel and expand Cohasset Elementary to address severe and long-standing elementary overcrowding and to add in-demand early education and community activity and fitness space, and to make health and safety improvements to activity and athletic facilities at Bigfork High School and throughout the district. For the owner of a home valued at $150,000, these improvements are calculated at $8.30 per month.

The first ballot question asks voters whether to approve the construction of two new neighborhood elementary schools, one at the Sports Complex site and one just west of Grand Itasca Hospital, for a cost just under $69 million - more than $10 million less than the 2015 plan. These sites have been obtained at a reduced cost to taxpayers through a land exchange with the City of Grand Rapids for the Forest Lake Elementary site and a portion of the Riverview Elementary site. In Cohasset, the district is partnering with the city to create a school that shares space with a community center, a larger gym, and early childhood space. This city/school partnership maximizes efficient use of space and operating budget to benefit all residents.

The second ballot question asks voters whether to approve improvements to locker rooms and the weight room at Bigfork High School and to add artificial turf to three fields in Grand Rapids, for a cost of just over $5 million. Ballot question one must pass for ballot question two to pass.

“We all benefit with stronger school facilities. Improved educational and activity and athletic space encourage new families and businesses to move to town and better prepare students to become productive and fulfilled citizens,” said ISD 318 School Board Chair Tom Peltier. “We also believe ISD 318 will host more activities and athletic tournaments with locker room and field improvements. These changes will allow the district to eliminate overcrowding, provide better learning environments and healthier spaces while preparing to meet future needs of the district.”

The Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB) made a $4.7 million grant to ISD 318 to be used to make school improvements if ballot question one is passed. This $4.7 is included in the $69 million cost for the two new neighborhood schools and renovation and expansion at the community school in Cohasset.

Home, business, agricultural and seasonal property owners can determine their tax impact on a tax calculator here on our website. The tax calculator, along with additional information about school needs and how the School Board plan to address them, can be found by clicking on the Facility Plan button on the main menu on the district site.

“All of our elementary schools were all built at least 60 years ago. Since that time, the way we teach kids has changed greatly. Our students and teachers excel, but our current buildings hamper our ability to meet student needs,” said ISD 318 School Superintendent Joni Olson. “It’s time to reinvest in our schools to ensure we are preparing students for the world and the workforce of today and tomorrow.”

The referendum is scheduled for April 10, 2018. Early voting will begin on February 23. Applications for absentee and early voting are available at the Itasca County Courthouse on 123 NE 4th St, Grand Rapids.