Echo Press Editorial: What's next for Brandon-Evansville?
Residents in Brandon-Evansville have spoken, loudly: No new school.
Last Wednesday, they defeated a $38.75 million referendum to build a K-12 school by a two-to-one margin, 1,281 to 500.
This is not a time for the "vote no" group to gloat or for the "vote yes" group to get angry or quit.
This is the time for listening, for working together and for exploring new ideas.
The "no group" can't just go back into the woodwork, believing their job is finished. Before the election, many in the group said that they felt shut out of the process, that they were "blindsided" by the school board's decision to pursue a one-school plan, that their input was ignored. To that group, we say: Now is the time to stay involved in the process. Attend meetings — the school board meets next on Sept. 18. Share your thoughts in a constructive way with school board members. Keep your mind open. Ask questions. Realize that, like it or not, there are problems with both school buildings — serious enough that the Minnesota Department of Education is urging the district to take action. Realize that the school district faces the very real possibility of the district dissolving unless something isn't done.
The "yes group" shouldn't be bitter or give up. They should heed the message from voters that the price tag of the project was just too high for them to accept. That doesn't mean that a new school isn't needed. And the group did convince 500 voters of that fact.
To that group, we say: Replace your negative feelings toward the "no" voters with a new resolve to come up with a compromise that more residents will accept. Consider a more modest plan that will still result in a school that the district can be proud of while meeting the needs of students and teachers.
This won't be an easy process. There is no magical solution out there that will gain near unanimous support. There has to be some give and take in striking a balance between costs, needs and wants.
We believe the school board did their homework in presenting a well thought-out plan before the voters. They've been studying the issue for years and were open with residents throughout the process, but somehow feelings of distrust seeped into the debate and residents felt shutout.
Part of the problem was that the school board held the informational meetings and later, either the yes or the no group held their meetings. Perhaps it would have been better to have a meeting led by a group that didn't have a vested interest in the outcome.
Also, the business communities in Brandon, Evansville and Millerville should be playing a more active role in the search for solutions. When Alexandria built its new school, the district raised more than $4 million in a capital campaign that was supported heavily by local businesses. Businesses in the Brandon-Evansville district also need to step up to the plate and provide that same kind of robust support if they want to keep a school in their area.
It's clear that something must be done to ensure that students and teachers in Brandon-Evansville have a school that is secure, meets fire, safety and building codes, and adheres to the Americans with Disabilities Act. Now is not the time to shirk away from that responsibility or blindly hope that some instant fix will save the day. All the communities need to work as one to make a decision that a majority of residents support. School children are counting on them.
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Echo Press editorials represent the opinion of the Echo Press Editorial Board, which includes Jeff Beach, Editor; Jody Hanson, Publisher; and Al Edenloff, News/Opinion Editor.