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Community survey results reported to school board

Submitted by the School District of River Falls

The School District of River Falls Board of Education received the results of a recent Community Survey at its Nov. 20 meeting. Results were summarized by Sue Peterson, School Perceptions consultant who conducted the independent survey.

The survey specifically identified details of a district-wide facility master plan while seeking public opinion on those specific priorities related to facility improvements. The survey utilized a format to provide factual information followed by specific questions.

Superintendent Jamie Benson said, "We received a large number of responses, and survey results will help guide the board with some details that have yet to be ironed out but generally speaking, the community sent a positive message of support for an April 3, 2018 referendum to be held."

After a series of demographic questions, the first part of the survey began with information and a question related to fact that the district will be retiring some debt (similar to burning a mortgage) with 66 percent of the 1,950 respondents recognizing the timing of a facility referendum to be tied to the debt retirement schedule.

Benson said, "Our community recognizes the need for investing in our schools and they know that the debt retirement factor would greatly minimize the tax impact of a successful referendum."

The survey explained that if the bulk of improvements remain on the April ballot, the tax impact of a $45.86 million referendum would be $41 per $100,000 home value, indicating the timing of a local RFSD referendum to be prudent, especially based on the current facility needs and the debt retirement implications for minimizing the tax impact.

The survey went on to outline several priorities in the long-term facility improvement plan and asked what level of support each respondent had for those aspects within the tentative plan. Some components of the facility master plan outlined in the survey include the following:

District-wide: increase community access to our facilities (indoor flexible space for senior citizen gatherings, community recreation/athletic space); roofing and blacktop replacements; and several aging maintenance needs that outpace the district's ability to fully address through its limited annual budget.

High School: improve vocational tech/flexible space; replace auditorium lighting and sound systems; repair swimming pool pumps/filters/humidification/liner; improve weight room; resurface tennis court and running tracks.

Meyer Middle School: improve air quality; improve science classrooms; update library space; update tennis courts into new community accessible pickle ball, tennis, and basketball courts; modest improvements to the auditorium.

Montessori, Rocky Branch, Greenwood, and Westside Elementary: add classrooms necessary to accommodate student enrollment growth; add flexible space (for community use, small/large group instruction, science fairs, student enrichment clubs and innovation activities, cafeteria space, Kids Club, etc.); upgrade kitchen equipment and space; remove 1978 portable classrooms from Westside.

Academy Building: raze the 1920's/40's sections of the building while adding classrooms and renovate the 1990's section of the building for our growing, 185-student Public Montessori Elementary School.

Two additional questions were asked about artificial turf and added parking behind the high school. These questions were separated from the main survey and explained the turf field could be used for youth sports, marching band, soccer, spring baseball and softball practices, physical education, as well as non-varsity football.

The survey was conducted in late October/early November 2017. School Perceptions received a total of 1,950 completed surveys which reflects about a 14 percent return rate. All residents received a mailed paper survey that included a unique access code for those who preferred to complete the survey online. Although parents and staff also received the same survey, the data was disaggregated by various groups to avoid duplication of results.

Demographic information identified age of respondents; the city/township in which they reside; if they were an employee of the district; and if they had children in school. Again, this information proved beneficial in disaggregation of the data into the most meaningful and accurate way for the Board to draw appropriate conclusions related to community stakeholder opinions.

By law, the school board must pass a formal resolution no later than Jan. 20, 2018 to provide a description of the referendum question(s) to be placed on the April ballot. The Board held a Special Board meeting on Dec. 5 to review survey results and to continue their path toward an April referendum.

The District will provide further communication related to the April referendum after all details have been confirmed by the Board. This communication will be mailed home, provided in newsletters, and discussed in public forums during the months leading up to April.

The entire survey results are online at If you have any questions please feel free to contact Superintendent, Jamie Benson at 715-425-1800.