A chill in the air means that for many, the holiday season is approaching and fall parent-teacher conferences have wrapped up. It’s also the time we raise the dome over the Athletic Center. This is our community’s second season with athletic fields protected from the weather. This is going to be a community amenity for years to come. Students at Pioneer Ridge Middle School are now swimming as part of their personal wellness classes. Carver Elementary and the additions at Victoria and Clover Ridge elementary schools now operate as if they were always there.
We hear from families in other school districts who view our facilities and our excellent curriculum with envy. We’re grateful for the support of our community in the 2015 referendum that provided these facilities. Survey results indicate 93 percent of residents rate the quality of our schools as good or excellent, one of the highest results in the metro area.
We do not take any of it for granted. After the first few years, new schools and athletic facilities become part of the fabric of our community. A great deal of work goes into keeping our schools and buildings operating in top condition. Our buildings and grounds staff are not in the spotlight very much, but they deserve the credit for the daily upkeep of our 2.2 million square feet of facility space and their grounds.
We have been looking at investments to keep our schools in good condition. It may come as a surprise, if you are new to our area, that the median age of our schools is 34 years. Think about a home that is 34 years old and the maintenance that goes into it: at least one new roof, possibly a new heater or air conditioner, new windows, flooring and more. With our growth over the past three decades, our bus garage is too small. More than 100 buses run across our district every day. Building maintenance is our responsibility to address and so we are developing plans.
Like home maintenance, we need to make clear distinctions between the projects we need to do and the ones we’d like to do. In October, a task force of parents, community members and district staff began reviewing enrollment projections and long-term maintenance projects. The task force will make a recommendation on priorities to the school board in the new year. Then we will seek additional public feedback ahead of School Board decisions about expanded or new school facilities and how to fund the list of school maintenance needs. Some of it is likely to be addressed with a referendum in 2019. We are not alone. Voters in many school districts have approved bonds to help with facility maintenance.
Eastern Carver County Schools has been responsive to community growth by adding classroom space as it is needed. We know our community has high expectations for education. We provide an exceptional curriculum and teaching staff who work on personalizing their lessons for every student. You will continue to hear more about the themes of enrollment growth and facility maintenance in the weeks and months to come.
By Clint Christopher, Superintendent of Eastern Carver County Schools