When I wrote this post about the ISD 742 School Board’s numbers on how much it would cost to fix Tech High School, I unintentionally omitted the enrollment figures for the district. The point of the article was to highlight the fallibility of the School Board’s numbers. Specifically, I quoted Sarah Murphy’s criticism of the repair cost figures.

Kevin Allenspach’s article quotes Ms. Murphy as saying “Those numbers are really round, so it’s hard to take them seriously.” Rather than just criticizing the figures, Ms. Murphy and Claire VanderEyk, both Tech alumni and architects, got a bid on how much it would cost to fix Tech.

The ISD 742 School Board estimated the cost at between $85,750,000 and $96,750,000. The estimate put together for Ms. Murphy and Ms. VanderEyk was $15,696,000. That’s a difference of more than $70,000,000. As terrible as those numbers are, that isn’t the whole story. This St. Cloud Times article on open enrollment is just another nail in the School Board’s bonding project coffin.

According to the School Board, the new Tech High School and the renovated Apollo High would have had an enrollment capacity of 1,800 students each. Here’s what the Times’ open enrollment article says:

The Sauk Rapids-Rice school district has seen a steady increase in the number of students open-enrolling from other districts. This fall, the district gained more than 500 students more than it lost to other districts. Almost a quarter of Sauk Rapids-Rice students aren’t residents of the school district. On the flip side, the St. Cloud school district lost about 1,660 more students this year to other public school districts than it gained through open enrollment.

The combined enrollment at Tech and Apollo was 2,700+ students last year. The trend is declining enrollment. Taxpayers aren’t out of line in questioning the School Board’s decision to build a new school that’s bigger than they need at a price nobody can afford.

It’s important to remember that the School Board’s price tag on a new Tech High School was $113.8 million. Compare that with Ms. Murphy’s and Ms. VanderEyk’s estimate to fix the existing Tech High School is $16,000,000. Additionally, the School Board’s estimate of fixing Apollo was $46.5 million.

Why would anyone trust the School Board’s figures for either project, especially given their proclivity for wild exaggerations? It’s time to scrap the School Board’s plan entirely. That doesn’t mean we can afford to do nothing. That isn’t an option. It just means we should fix what needs fixing at a price that’s taxpayer friendly.

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3 Responses to “Bigger schools, shrinking enrollment”

  • Dave Steckling says:

    1800 capacity new charter school to be operative by 2018; further 742 declining enrollment should follow. Eventually there will be adequate space among the various 742 buildings to comfortably house ALL grades. Back in the 1970’s the junior high were grades 7-8-9. This could again be implemented so the existing high schools could accommodate more kids. Course the teachers union would not care for that.

  • Jethro says:

    Dave: Speaking of empty space, don’t forget about the two empty dorms at SCSU and the $44 million empty ISELF science building thanks to President Potter. Only the best for St. Cloud taxpayers.

  • Dave Steckling says:

    CORRECTION: the new charter school will open this August with room for 800 students in K-6. Within three years 1200 capacity for K-8. Good idea Jethro, send some 742 to class at ISELF science equipped building.

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