With No Expansion, School Eyes New Solutions To Overcrowding

Created: 03/12/2014 10:58 PM
By: John Doetkott

(ABC 6 News) --  DMC's influence is reaching out beyond Rochester as schools in other towns are expanding. Byron passed a bond referendum last night, and Pine Island is set to vote May 13th.

In Grand Meadow, schools are searching for another way to make room for students after voters rejected a $13.8 million bond referendum that would have expanded classrooms and athletic facilities.  The defeated referendum means school leaders are going to have to find new solutions to a growing problem.

“Our enrollment is sitting right around the 400 mark and we're bursting at the seams now," said Chris Gerber, the chairman of the Grand Meadow School Board.

The school expects to add roughly 50 more students in the next two years, and school officials said they'll have to get creative just to find space for them all.

"The problem doesn't go away by any means,” Gerber said. “So the next year or two are going to be some challenging times for us."

Officials said the vote likely came down to concerns over the nearly $14 million price tag and the open enrollment program, which they call misunderstood, saying it brings in thousands of dollars every year.

"I was kind of surprised, I really thought that the community was going to stand behind this more,” said Jamie Christenson, a mother with two children currently enrolled in the district.

Christenson actually used open enrollment last year before moving into the city. She said the school was a factor in her move, but is still worried about overcrowding.

Right now her son's music class has to be held on the back of the school stage, and the district board room is being converted to class space.

“If we're using the board room, the stage, and the props closet, what’s next? Where are they going to hold the classes?” Christenson said. “I guess that's my biggest concern as a parent, is: are they going to be getting the quality education that they need?"

With no other choice, school officials said they'll make the best out of a cramped situation, but for now, it's back to the drawing board.

"We're going to put our heads together and try to come up with another solution,” Gerber said. “The problem itself doesn't go away."

School officials said they'll look to partner with other schools to try and find solutions, but only see the problem getting worse as the Mayo Clinic's DMC project continues and more families move away from Rochester and into the district.