Contributed photo
A new entrance and gym would be constructed at the Henning School should a building referendum be approved by voters on November 8.

By Chad Koenen


When voters head to the polls on November 8, individuals who live in the Henning School District will have the opportunity to vote on a pair of school building projects. If both projects are approved by voters the result would be an approximately $27 million remodeling and expansion project at the school. 

The second question is for a $4.6 million expansion on what would become the front of the school. The project would build a new full size gym that would provide addition space for phy ed. classes and athletic practices and events. The gym would become the main high school gym for athletic contests and performances, while the current high school and elementary gyms would provide additional places to host community events, activities and gym space to help a space crunch at the school.

A number of other schools in the Park Region Conference have constructed a new gym in recent years, which would go a long ways to limiting early morning and split athletic practices in the winter, while also providing fans a new place to call home. Currently, some winter sports teams need to have practice before school, or late at night on a school night, due to a lack of space. 

In addition to the gym, the second question will also provide additional remodeling to elementary bathrooms and make additional roof repairs more quickly than currently planned. 

The second part of the referendum is contingent on the first question passing, meaning it cannot pass unless the first question also passes by a majority of voters. 

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.

In order to put the best plan forward, Henning School Superintendent Melissa 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 indications from our community meetings was this was a good idea and we should move forward.”

The last major building project at the Henning 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. 

If the first question is approved by voters on November 8, the cost for a residential home in the school district with a median home value of $200,000 would see an estimated tax increase of $40 per month, or $480 per year beginning in 2023. If the second question were to also pass the additional cost would be $8 per month, or $96 per year. Should both questions pass the cost would be an additional $576 per year beginning in 2023.

While the cost for the project is substantial, Sparks said the needs of the district will continue should the referendums fail to garner the support of taxpayers. For example, she said the HVAC system will need to be replaced and the cost for the project will only go up over time. 

Some of the projects on the proposed referendum could ultimately be approved by the school board through alternative measures should the levy fail. Sparks said the school board would need to go back to the drawing board about what options it would like to implement should the levy fail in November.

“The board will have to go and decide what they want to do. They will have to revisit that,” said Sparks. 

Editor’s note: This is the final in a three part series concerning the upcoming Henning School building referendum scheduled for November 8.