Student senators heard presentations concerning a proposed referendum for Mankato public schools and the Student Athlete Advisory Committee.
Paul Peterson, Superintendent of the Mankato Public Schools, spoke concerning the Facilities Bond Referendum election that will take place on Nov. 7. Peterson said the Mankato Area Public Schools serve over 8,000 kids in Mankato and surrounding regions, such as Madison Lake and Skyline.
“The referendum has been a path that our school board has been on for several years,” he said. “Although our facility needs have been high for quite some time, it made sense for our board not to go out for a referendum vote in the middle of COVID-19. So, we’ve had to pump the brakes several times on going to voters.”
Peterson said the school board has assessed voters to determine what could be improved in public school facilities and what is affordable.
“The board made the determination in August to move forward with two questions, and those questions are in front of voters right now. We’ll end the voting on November 7th,” he said.
Peterson said school board members come from a variety of backgrounds and viewpoints, but they agreed on the referendum. His role is informing voters about what is on the ballot and why. Question 2 is contingent on Question 1, which means that if Question 1 doesn’t pass, nothing passes.
“Question 1 covers the tiptop priorities that our board have identified. $105 million dollars for Question 1 is broken into three categories: safety and security, early learning access, and learning and wellness,” Peterson said. “Question 2 is all about our co-curricular outdoor facilities, such as fine arts, athletics, and co-curriculars.”
Peterson said certain schools in the district need to be updated to new security systems because they allow too free of an access to the entire building for anyone.
“We have 10 schools in our district where access to the building is controlled by a buzzer. Once that buzzer releases the door, any visitor has access to the entire building,” Peterson said. “We need to know who is in our buildings.”
Another agenda related to Question 1 is the remodeling of West High School. Built in 1951, there are parts of this school that still model after the 1950s and 60s. Very little flexible learning space exists.
“None of this stuff is free because communities have to determine not only what they want, but also what they can afford,” Peterson said. “That’s where our board stepped in and decided through surveys that the tax tolerance of our communities was at about $10 per month for people who own their home, own a business, or own agricultural land.”
Peterson said Question 2 is a significantly lower cost, running at $15 million. The tax impact of this would be at $2.50 per month.
“We would be converting to synthetic turf, widening our tracks, really changing up the guest experience with bleachers, lights, restrooms, and concessions,” Peterson said. “High schools are starting to up their game when it comes to places for physical education and people to have practices when the snow is still on the ground. Having turf provides an opportunity to get out there just a bit earlier.”
Next on the floor was the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, which was represented by Vice President Jade Jackson. Jackson expressed that SAAC is seeking to work closer with Student Government than it has in the past.
“Our student population here is huge, over 500 student athletes, so we work hand-in-hand with student athlete reps,” Jackson said. “SAAC is made up of student athletes assembled to provide insight on student athlete experience. SAAC also provides input on rules, regulations, and policies that affect student athletes’ lives in the NCAA.”
SAAC takes what it does very seriously. Jackson said two unexcused absences will lead to removal from the committee and replacement by someone else from the person’s team.
“We need to know that you care about student athlete experience, and we want to enhance that,” Jackson said.
Every year, SAAC has an initiative. Jackson said this year there are five initiatives. The Green Bandana Initiative is about mental health awareness. Other initiatives encourage not driving when drunk and sexual violence awareness.
Jackson said last year SAAC participated in the Make a Wish cause, fundraising $1,000 to be distributed among various schoolwide causes.
“That’s one of our goals, to maybe improve that next year,” she said.
Since community service is required for athletes, Jackson said SAAC seeks to enhance this. SAAC has also sought to build a strong community among the athletes.
“This year we are really big on athletes supporting other athletes,” she said.
One way that SAAC does this is by rewarding teams who attend other teams’ sporting events.
Write to Tracy Swartzendruber at firstname.lastname@example.org