Referendum to change slightly from November questions

Photo by Chad Koenen
The Henning School Board could officially seek a building referendum as soon as May after a referendum was narrowly defeated in November.

By Chad Koenen


The Henning School Board received a high level look at an expansive building project that could be put in front of the voters for the second time in May. 

During a special school board meeting and work session on Monday night, the Henning School Board heard of an updated school building referendum plan. In November the first question of an expansive school building referendum failed by just 26 votes, while a second question failed by just 91 votes. 

This time around the school board, as well as representatives from ICS, changed portions of the overall plan to address concerns raised within the school district. However, the overall scope and concept behind all of the various parts of the referendum will be similar to what was put before voters in November. 

“For the most part it is what you have seen before,” said Dan Miller of ICS.

For example, the overall scope of the project will remain largely the same with the exception that the outside of the building changed a bit this time around. For example, Miller said the outside of the building on the first question was changed to leave an outline of where a gym could be placed in the future should the second question not be passed by voters. If the first question passes and not the second part, an outdoor green space or some other feature will be included to take up the space being left by the lack of an additional gym. 

  Another big change is how the projects within the overall referendum will be presented. For example, in November the second question included several repairs to the roof, updates to bathrooms as well as a new gym. However, Henning School Superintendent Melissa Sparks said the misconception she heard was that the second question only included the addition of a third gym.

This time around the maintenance projects and updates to the school, with the exception of the gym, will be included with the first question. The second question will simply be the costs associated with adding an additional gym to be used for community events, including high school athletic activities, as well as some additional storage. 

“Then it really does just strip it out, do you want the gym or do you not,” said school board chair Reed Reinbold.

According to plans presented in November, the gym itself was a similar size to the one already in the school. This time around Miller said based on comments received by the school district, the gym will be larger than the current one and could provide additional seating for up to 80-100 more people. 

“If someone asks you is it bigger and better than the last gym, yes it is,” said Miller.

The cost of the first question is currently estimated at $23 million, which will address a number of issues at the school like its aging HVAC system, as well as flipping the entrances of the school to the back of the building, creating a commons area for lunch, moving the administrative offices and making some necessary updates/deferred maintenance. 

The second question will include largely just the addition of a new gym and will be just over $4 million.

Should the latest referendum be defeated in May, school board members cautioned that the cost of any project will continue to go up as the cost of goods and inflation continue to rise.

“I think what people need to understand is it is never going to get cheaper,” said Reinbold. “Every time people say no it is going to get more expensive and you are going to get less.”

The school board will officially vote on whether to proceed with a building referendum during its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday night. 

Annual designations

In addition to the upcoming referendum, a bulk of the actual meeting on Monday night was set aside for the annual appointments and committee assignments. While most of the committees will stay largely the same, a few changes were made by school board members.

The leadership of the school board will remain in tact as Reed Reinbold was re-elected as board chair, while Rod Thalmann was re-elected as vice-chair. Kim Haugen was re-elected as clerk and Matt Reinbold was re-elected as the treasurer.

The date of the meetings will be changed from the third Monday of the month to the third Tuesday of the month. The meeting time will be moved up from a 7 p.m. start to a 6:30 p.m. start. 

The committee assignments for the school board are as follows:

• Safety- Matt Reinbold, Terry Oscarson, Thalmann

• MSBA Legislative Representative: Reed Reinbold

• District advisory committee/learning advisory readiness team: Haugen, Oscarson

• MSHSL representative: board representative: Matt Reinbold, school representative: Randy Misegades, speech: Leah Roberts, music: Ben Johnson and Naomi Horn

• Scholarship committee: Oscarson

• CTE advisory committee: Matt Reinbold, Haugen

• Technology committee: Andy Eckhoff, Haugen, Reed Reinbold

• COVID-19 incident command team: Reed Reinbold, Oscarson, Eckhoff

• Negotiations/labor relations: Haugen, Matt Reinbold, Reed Reinbold

• Community education: Thalmann, Oscarson

• Otter Tail Collaborative Board: Haugen

• Wall of Fame: Reed Reinbold

• Freshwater Education District: Thalmann

• Cooperative athletics and activities: Matt Reinbold, Oscarson and Eckhoff