Referendum could add a new entrance, commons

By Chad Koenen


Henning School District voters will head to the polls on November 8 for much more than elections surrounding the city council and governor’s race. School district voters will have the chance to cast a ballot for what could be a nearly $27 million building project that could bring the Henning School building into the 21st century. 

The building referendum, which will be the first major school building expansion project at Henning School since 1993, could provide everything from a new HVAC system, deferred maintenance to the building, a commons area, updates to the elementary wing, bathrooms and even a new gym. The total cost of the two-part question is approximately $27 million.

Henning School Superintendent Melissa Sparks said the planing began quite some time ago as the school board began investigating ways to address the district’s aging HVAC system. As the school board began looking at its HVAC needs, especially in the elementary wing of the school, it completed school impact assessments to see what other projects could be on the horizon. That’s when the school board learned that several other projects and enhancements were needed at the school as well. For example, Sparks said the elementary wing of the school lacks proper storage, electrical outlets and is in need of a makeover after being constructed nearly 30 years ago. 

“Learning has evolved over the years as well,” said Sparks of today’s students.

For example, Sparks said some students do not just learn while sitting in a desk and listening to a teacher. There is need for technology, as well as a place to put their skills to the test with real-life experiences. 

In order to put the best plan forward, Sparks said the school board hosted a number of community listening sessions this year to gain input and feedback from various non-profit groups, community members and businesses. The hope was to develop a plan that fit the school district’s needs, as well as gather input from the community itself.

“The board went through many steps…they didn’t go into this uninformed or unprepared. They really did their homework,” she said. “Seeking continual input from the community was really needed to move forward and do this. All indication from our community meetings was this was a good idea and we should move forward.”

The first question allocates $21.7 million for improvements to indoor air quality, proper ventilation, updating elementary classrooms, a new high school gym floor, new staging equipment for the choir and band, changing the entrance to the back of the school to be more secure, relocating the administrative offices to the central part of the building and deferred maintenance. 

As part of the project, the first question would create a formal entrance to the school in what is now the back of the building. A parking lot will be added to the green space located near the playground, which will also create a new drop off area for parents and students away from the bus pick up and drop off. A new commons area and cafeteria will also be added near the new entrance of the school for students and community members to utilize. 

The second question is for $4.6 million and would construct a new high school gym that would be used for sporting and community events, as well as more extensive updates to rest rooms and additional roof replacements that are needed at the school. 

The last major building project at the school was a large $4.7 million project that was approved by voters in 1993 by a 707 to 406 margin. At the time it was a record turn out for voters in the during a special school election in Henning. 

According to records found in The Henning Advocate, this is the ninth building project being put forward to voters in the Henning School District. Voters have approved the building expansion and construction plan in six of those levy’s, including the last one in 1993. Many times voters passed the measures by a wide margin. 

In fact, the closest building referendum vote in Henning’s history was in 1908 when 18 voters unanimously approved a $6,000 proposal to finance the “new” school, which was part of the oldest part of the school in 1993. 

The 1993 addition featured an expanded media center, two interactive television studios, classrooms for elementary and special education students an elementary music room, relocated administrative offices, expanded locker rooms, a shop and more. Since that project some 30 years ago, Sparks said education has dramatically changed with modern advances in technology and further need for improvements in air quality. 

More information about the upcoming building referendum will be featured in next week’s issue of the Citizen’s Advocate.