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The future is now

G-T school officials say bond issue will allow school to flourish for current and future students

March 2, 2018
Amy H. Peterson - Staff Writer ( , Estherville News

GRAETTINGER - Twenty-two votes.

That's the number of votes the Graettinger-Terril School bond needed to pass last fall. After regrouping and gaining enough petition signatures to call for a new vote, it happens April 3. A bond issue, if approved, will net $9.7 million for new space and security in both the Terril and Graettinger buildings.

The increase in taxes is expected to run $2.70 per $1,000 of valuation.

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"We can lock in a lower bond interest rate if the bond is passed April 3," school superintendent Andrew Wolwood said.

Polls will be open for registered voters in the Graettinger-Terril School District from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, April 3 at the Graettinger Public Library and the Terril Community Center.

A tour of the Graettinger building led by Graettinger-Terril Middle/High School principal Jeremy Simington revealed safety and instructional issues in the close quarters of the science, ag, and tech areas of the school.

The current high school science lab and classroom is a single space with a few lab tables cramped and one sink for at least four students at a time.

Former science teacher Marc Benedict, who is currently running a collaborative research project in the school, said, "Space is definitely a safety concern. It's not laid out ideally."

Benedict said with the proposed new space, a separate classroom and lab would allow flexibility. The lab will be shared with the agriculture classes.

"Right now, there's no middle school lab space whatsoever, so there's no opportunity for hands-on laboratory work beyond the classroom," Benedict said.

Wolwood said, "The citizens want improved science facilities."

About two years ago, the district formed a citizens committee to go through both buildings and advise on changes they would like to see. They took a survey of teachers, asking them what they liked and did not like in their current classrooms, Wolwood said.

Security will improve in both buildings with one door leading into the school office in each location, Wolwood said.

"Right now in Terril, at the entrance door there is a choice to go upstairs or downstairs. We want everyone to come straight into the office, but there's no saying that's where they go," Wolwood said.

Caryn Graham, ag teacher, said, "Having a lab space is essential to the things I'm trying to teach."

"Coming from a small town district, many of my students start working directly out of high school, or they go to Iowa Lakes Community College for a certificate program. I want them to leave my classes prepared," Graham said.

Graham said she sees about 80 students each day with 15-20 moving around in a small space.

"It's not ideal and it's not safe," Graham said.

The lab space will be "seriously valuable to my programs," Graham said. Currently, ag students have no counter or sink space in the classroom and insufficient facilities for all students to get out microscopes.

Mara Butler, industrial tech teacher, said the shared space between workshops and tech means the department struggles to maintain a dust-free space to run the laser and keep the dust out of the computers for CAD drafting class.

Butler said the district has acquired tremendous, state-of-the-art equipment for the classes, and she looks forward to working with students in improved space.

Butler said she has up to 27 students in come classes.

"In building trades, we build an 8 x 10 shed inside the shop space we're now sharing with other classes. In small engines, we don't have a separate area for the engines, which can be flammable and give off petroleum fumes from the welding area."

"We make things work, but it has its challenges," Butler said, not the least of which is a leak in the roof.

Wolwood said, "We want to make sure we have great facilities for our great students and great teachers."

The current space is 33,000 square feet and the addition will at 38,000 square feet, with most of that space going to the new, regulation gymnasium.

Coach and P.E. teacher Todd Hough said the current limited space has both challenges and safety concerns.

"It's very hard to get everyone active at once. We have to have smaller games, have some groups of kids doing things in the bleachers while others play games in the gym," Hough said.

The physical education stalwart game of pickleball, for example, is nearly impossible because the concrete block wall of the gym is right next to the out of bounds line, Hough said.

The gym is not regulation size, leaving Graettinger out of possible selection for district-level tournaments, Simington said.

With a regulation gym and seating space for approximately 1,000 spectators, Hough said, "There's an economic benefit. It will get more people to town."

Kyle Norris, a twelve-year member of the G-T school board, addressed myths that had been communicated from community members, chiefly that the new addition will make the Terril building obsolete.

"One hundred percent of our elementary activities take place in Terril now, and will continue to take place in Terrill. We have more students in Terril now than when we went to whole-grade sharing in 2005-06," Norris said.

Norris said, "We want to give all of our kids what they deserve and what they need in a school."

The district is holding two community meetings in March, one in Terril on March 5 and in Graettinger March 19, both at 7 p.m.

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