C-I School District prepares for November referendum

Crosby-Ironton School District Superintendent Jamie Skjeveland points out the outdated equipment in the high school's career and technical education spaces Friday, July 26. Equipment upgrades are part of the referendum planned for Nov. 5. Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

CROSBY -- Despite 2019 being an off-year for elections, Tuesday, Nov. 5, will be a big day in the Crosby-Ironton School District, as voters will head to the polls to decide on a $29.56 million referendum.

If approved, funds from the one-question ballot measure will pay for facility upgrades and maintenance, along with some technology advancements.

Of the $29.56 million requested, $2 million would go toward a capital projects levy to fund technology upgrades over 10 years. The rest of the sum would be issued in bonds, with $10 million issued over 10 years for facility maintenance, and the remaining $17.56 million issued over 20 years for facility upgrades, including the remodeling of various spaces at both Cuyuna Range Elementary School and Crosby-Ironton High School, which houses grades 7-12.

Input from students, teachers, residents, business owners and other community members has been taken into account over the last year to develop a plan that prioritizes facility maintenance, Superintendent Jamie Skjeveland said.

“Let’s make sure that we’re maintaining this joint,” Skjeveland said during an interview Friday, July 26, noting some updates and remodels are needed as well.


Elementary school

Cuyuna Range Elementary School in northeast Crosby dates back to 1988 and was built with an open classroom concept, meaning classrooms for each grade level were built in pods around a common space and without doors.

“There’d be five classrooms, and it’s all open,” Skjeveland explained, noting loud noises -- like a movie playing -- would travel from one classroom into the rest, disrupting the learning environments.

A few years ago, the district remodeled the kindergarten, first and second grade rooms, adding hallways and doors to help mitigate noise levels, which Skjeveland said was a success.

“We have seen significant improvement in student learning because there’s just less distractions,” Skjeveland said.

Under the referendum, the classrooms for grades 3-6 would undergo the same changes.

A reconfiguration of the performance center at the elementary school may be in the cards as well, as right now, when guests enter the school, they have to walk all the way around to the other side of the performance center to find the doors. Instead, Skjeveland said designers are looking at the idea of moving the stage to the other side of the auditorium and bringing the doors near the school entrance so it’s more convenient for guests.

They’re also exploring various concepts to turn the school’s media center into a more modern, 21st century space.

Outside, the bus drop-off loop at the elementary school would be reconfigured into an overflow parking lot for special events, as the current parking space is not big enough to accommodate everyone, meaning guests often have to walk a long way.


“We’re not designed for events at all,” Skjeveland said.

The bus drop-off would remain in the same place.

The baseball field at the elementary school would see new dugouts and chainlink fence.

Junior/senior high

One of the biggest pieces of feedback Skjeveland said he received from students was the need for more color in the mostly beige building.

Next, Skjeveland wants to bring Crosby-Ironton High School into the 21st century through projects like adding more collaborative spaces and updating career and technical education equipment.

Various parts of the school date back to the 1930s, ‘50s, ‘70s, ‘80s, with the newest additions built in 2005.

The junior locker bay would be converted into a junior/senior collaborative space for students to work together on projects or just have an area to hang out.

Right now, Skjeveland said students are making do by sitting in doorways.


“There’s nowhere for them to sit and collaborate, and we live in a world where success depends on how often we’re collaborating,” he said.

That new collaborative space would have large windows looking into what is now the library, which would turn into a makerspace of sorts, with areas for fabrication labs, mechatronics, 3-D printing and other modern technology. Mechatronic engineering combines the fundamentals of mechanical, electrical and computer science to develop autonomous systems, according to the University of New South Wales. The windows would act as viewing portals so students in the collaborative space can see what kind of high-tech projects their peers are working on.

The library as it stands, Skjeveland said, barely gets used despite it being one of the biggest rooms in the school.

“If this is the largest space in our school, we want this place packed,” he said. “We want as many students using this space as possible.”

Aside from the high-tech equipment planned for the space, Skjeveland said designers have explored options like a coffee shop of sorts to offer beverages for students.

The furniture would also be updated, with a recent experiment showing students are more drawn to modern-looking furniture with built-in charging stations or comfortable lounge chairs versus the old wooden tables and chairs.

“If that’s what kids want, we should be providing that for them,” Skjeveland said.

All the books in the library would then be moved and integrated into various spaces instead of just sitting in one spot.


“Kids shouldn’t have to go somewhere to go do books. So if we have history books, we want them up near the history department,” Skjeveland said, explaining they’d also be in locker bays, collaborative spaces and other areas.

The same goes for computers, with labs becoming a thing of the past, Skjeveland explained.

Over in the career and technical education area, which includes woodworking, metals and automotive, Skjeveland said much of the equipment dates back to the 1970s or ‘80s.

“We need to make sure our kids, our students, are working on tools and using resources representing the 21st century, not the 20th century,” he said.

The walls and ceilings of the spaces are in good shape, so Skjeveland said they would ideally keep the structure of the rooms but essentially bulldoze the interiors and get all new equipment.

Also structurally sound are the old Woock gym and the performance center, which date back to 1938. The main change planned for the gym is either the removal or remodeling of the bottom level of the bleachers, which is a soft cushion material, odd to step on while walking up the bleachers, Skjeveland said, and jutting out very close to the sidelines during basketball games.

Other changes to athletic spaces include air conditioning in the newer Ranger gym, updates in the locker rooms and a bigger weight room. The cardio equipment would be moved into the vacated computer lab, creating more space in the weight room without building any additions.

The high school’s cafeteria would be remodeled into a more inviting space and in Skjeveland’s mind be more conducive to families and those who spend time there on the weekend for sports tournaments.


“Families, they want a place to nest, a place to be,” he said. “And so under the new design there’s going to be a place for families to sit, to be comfortable, to lounge.”

Lastly, if the referendum passes, the trophy cases at the high school would essentially cease to exist, with a plan to replace them with interactive touch screens for curious alumni to look up statistics from all the past sports teams -- wins, losses, championship titles -- and see virtual renderings of the trophies and awards.

As for the physical trophies, Skjeveland said he would reach out to alumni to see if there’s any interest in keeping the awards.

Tax impact

If the referendum passes, property taxes will remain unchanged for many residents and will increase a little for other residents and business owners.

The estimated property tax difference are as follows:

  • Residential up to $200,000: No change.

  • Residential between $350,000-$500,000: Increase about $0.08 a month, or $1 a year.

  • Commercial up to $300,000: Increase about $0.08 a month, or $1 a year.

  • Commercial, $500,000: Increase about $0.16 a month or $2 a year.

  • Commercial, $1 million: Increase about $0.33 a month, or $4 a year.

  • Seasonal up to $200,000: No change.

  • Seasonal between $300,000-$500,000: Increase about $0.08 a month, or $1 a year.

  • Seasonal between $750,000-$1 million: Increase about $0.16 a month, or $2 a year.

Agricultural properties would see increases of less than $1 a year, with homesteads valued at $6,000 per acre increasing $0.15 a year and non-homesteads of the same value increasing about $0.30 a year.
The reason the tax change is minimal is because taxpayers are still paying off the 2002 bond referendum, in which voters approved funds over 20 years to build the new portions of the high school, which were finished in 2005. The remaining debt from that measure -- which expires in 2023, would be refinanced and absorbed into the new referendum, keeping property tax rates consistent with the past 17 years.

“If you own a home, it’s like refinancing a house,” Skjeveland said.

More information

“We want to make sure our public is educated on what this referendum is all about,” Skjeveland said.


Once school starts, Skjeveland plans to attain that goal by going out into the community, visiting with businesses and service groups to explain what the referendum is all about.

For referendum updates, follow the Crosby-Ironton School District on Facebook or Twitter. For more information or questions, contact Skjeveland at or 218-545-8817.

Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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