MFL MarMac board voices support for fieldhouse, elementary addition project

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By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

The MFL MarMac School Board, at its Oct. 14 meeting, voiced support for the district’s proposed fieldhouse and facilities improvement project.

Plans currently include constructing one full competition gym, which could be divided into two full-size practice courts, in the area behind the music addition at the Monona Center, where the tennis courts are currently located. The roughly 32,000-square-foot facility is projected to hold 1,200 people, making it large enough to host district events. The fieldhouse would also feature a walking/running track that could be accessible to the public, as well as a commons area, concession stand for both indoor and outdoor events and bathrooms and locker rooms.

Another large aspect of the project includes an addition at the elementary school that would improve the building’s east and west entrances and upgrade the circle drive area, expand the bathrooms and create academic common space and a conference room.

In March, voters are anticipated to consider a $6.8 million bond referendum to help pay for the project. If passed, that would increase taxes $1.30 for every $100,000 of assessed property, according to the school.

In a statement, the board said it supports the project because it will benefit both students and the district’s communities.

“Our participation rates at MFL MarMac have increased, and we want this to continue to improve,” the statement read. “The board realizes a successful program consists of academics, athletics and the fine arts, with academic achievement being the primary focus.”

Paired with previous facilities improvements at both the Monona and McGregor centers, such as the auditorium, new roofs, boilers, windows, air conditioning and playgrounds, the board believes the project “will push the district to even higher levels and provide an opportunity that is unique to MFL MarMac.” It could secure and solidify the future for the next generation by making the small communities more appealing to new families.

“Our big impetus in our campaign needs to be that this isn’t about athletics because, to me, it’s really not,” said superintendent Dale Crozier. “It’s really about the future of making your school district a place where people are going to want to come to.”

“I could argue loudly that this will bring us to the next level and increase our enrollment a lot,” he continued. “If I were a young person with a family, I would want to go to a place that’s built up, and we’re pretty much there. This is the one thing we haven’t done.”

If the project brings 100 kids to the district, that would mean $700,000 in funding, Crozier said. In 10 years, that grows to $7 million.

“The bond referendum is $6.8 million. You get 100 kids to move in, and, in 10 years, it’s paid for. We could have that happen,” he said. “We’re in a perfect position to grow. What we’re trying to do is help our students and our future education and the long-term stability of the district.”

Those families, added board member Tonya Meyer, would, in turn, support local businesses. And that growth could be one way to convince people to support the efforts.

“Right now, there are a lot of people who are just not sure,” she shared. “They’re wondering why” the project is necessary. 

In order to better sell the project to the public, Sharon Greener said the district should consider creating a name or slogan that better encompasses the project’s goals.

“When you say the fieldhouse, you pretty much think of athletics right away. People think we’re targeting the athletes, and that isn’t the whole,” she explained. “We need to get something that’s a little more encompassing of the idea that we’re trying to improve the district to get the enrollment up and some of the things we want to offer our students.”

“We don’t want to overlook the fact that we’re not just building a gym,” added Jonathon Moser. 

Collin Stubbs agreed.

“If you ask the general public today, they’re going to ask you what’s the status on the new fieldhouse, the gym. That’s what they associate this whole conversation with,” he said. “But it’s just one physical aspect of a larger project.”

Crozier said that’s something the district can consider as it continues to promote the project and hash out the details in the coming months.

“There are a lot of things that need to be decided,” noted Stubbs.

McGregor Center updates planned

At the meeting, Crozier also proposed several upgrades at the McGregor Center, including a new elevator/lift in the old gym and a new LED sign on the building’s exterior. He’d like to see additional LED lighting inside, as well.

 The projects are “kind of pricey,” he said, “but if we do that, I think it would be demonstrating to our public that we are caring for the McGregor Center.”

“There’s not a lot left to do for McGregor,” Crozier concluded, “because we’ve done it.”

Enrollment down four students

After a fairly large jump up last year, Crozier said MFL MarMac’s enrollment declined four students this year. He’s optimistic, though. The current senior class is in the low-40s, but incoming classes should be larger.

“If we get 55 to 60 kindergartners, that will be good because our enrollment will increase,” he said.

District offering early separation

The board approved offering early separation this year to both administrators and teachers. Staff must have 15 years of experience to qualify. The board is capping the number of participants at five, but could waive that limit if they felt it was necessary. The district last offered early retirement in the 2016-2017 school year, and Crozier said it likely won’t be offered any time soon after this.

Contract approved

The board approved a contract for Elsie Meyer for eight hours per week as a paraprofessional at the elementary school.

Board supports proposal

The board said it would support a proposal from the Iowa High School Athletic Association to study the athletic classification system.

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