ISD #1 Be Informed

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Operating as usual

Come learn about the people who want to lead our schools. Meal for the first 200 to arrive.

Today will indicate if the ISD #1 community is ready to invest in the future of our children and their education. If you have not voted yet, please head in to your usual polling location and show your support for Aitkin public schools. Polling locations close at 8 pm.

Voter Information Portal
Not sure where to vote? Minnesota's Secretary of State has your back. Minnesota Voter Tools

Some people have been saying that the remodel option was full of "wish list" type items and we can cut the $40 million down to a more reasonable number if this referendum fails. Here is what was presented to the board. Not sure what those "wish list" items are. Point is, it is going to cost a lot of money either way to solve the problems of our buildings.

[08/07/16]   A lot of people are talking about a $68.5 million dollar school. Reminder that the referendum includes a $9.8 million dollar remodel of Rippleside. The cost of the 5-12 building also includes site prep, sports fields and extra gym space. Also included is space the community can use (i.e. walking track). The school is not proposing a $68.5 million building.

[08/06/16]   Absentee ballot hours at the Aitkin County Courthouse have been extended today from 10 am to 3 pm. If you have already voted, see if your family and friends have too!

[08/05/16]   NOTICE: Absentee ballot hours are extended tomorrow from 10 am to 3 pm.

[08/04/16]   ‘Let teachers and students reach potential’ -Lindsey Kaiser, AHS English instructor. 08.03.2016

I do not usually vocalize my opinion in a public forum but as a parent and teacher, I must take a chance. Recently, Aitkin High School has incurred several “mini catastrophes” that continue to wreak havoc on our aging building. The “Great Flood of 2015” has now turned into the “Annual Flooding of Aitkin High School.” To many, this might seem a bump in the road. However, to someone who has lost everything in her classroom during that flood, it’s so much more. Torrential rains gushed through my classroom’s ceiling, destroying hundreds of books from my classroom library, meticulously collected for student use. Nine years’ worth of materials were destroyed within minutes. The facts are clear: Aitkin High School is old and in dire straits. Continuing to do “just enough” maintenance might seem cost effective now but it isn’t saving money long term and it isn’t doing anything to excel learning for the students in our community. Instead of our students being impacted by negative issues, let’s instead give them incredible opportunities to advance as 21st century learners in the best school in the area and keep them competitive with the rest of the nation.
It’s been said that teachers make the quality education, not the building. Outdated buildings and resources limit teachers’ potential. Many teachers are fresh out of college or advanced training programs and are excited to try new things but are held back because they don’t have the space, resources or equipment to implement these incredible new experiences for kids. We are severely limiting our students’ potential by teaching in an old, outdated facility and we are also limiting our district’s ability to attract new teachers and retain high quality teachers. Students, families, and teachers are choosing to open enroll in other districts with nicer facilities to provide better learning opportunities for their kids and themselves. It’s time to attract new families and retain the wonderful students and excellent teachers we already have. Building a new school might be the deciding factor between someone choose Aitkin over Crosby or McGregor. Imagine having a state-of-the-art building for our community and most importantly, a safe and secure place for our beloved children to attend in a school that they are proud of.
Thing about the future of our quaint little town “up north” and vote yes on Aug. 9.

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‘Tax burden may not be as bad as feared’ -Sherry Arvidson, Aitkin. 08.03.2016

Our students, teachers and community deserve a new school facility. This has been an ongoing topic for about 50 years now. Both my husband, Ron, and I graduated from school in Aitkin. We moved back here 19 years ago to put our youngest son, Mikael, into the school we attended. Our major reason was to get him out of a very dangerous city and to a safer place to finish out his education.
I am wondering if you have taken the tour of the existing facilities. Have you attended the information meetings? I think your eyes would be opened. Our school is extremely outdated for the changes that have occurred in what and how things are taught. The classrooms are small and have almost no ventilation. In fact, the third floor in the “new building” (40 years old) has asbestos in the ceilings. I am sure the other ceilings are the same. The other two buildings were built 60 years and 75 years ago.
This building has been patched and patched and patched. To renovate it has been estimated to cost 40 million dollars and would still not be adequate for today’s education. Things are changing dramatically, even since our son graduated in 2003.
So much has been said about how people can’t afford an increase in taxes. Rumors have spread and have put fear into the elderly and low-income people. Do you know that there is a real estate tax rebate and a renter’s rebate? For those who qualify, you may be able to get a refund on what you pay in property tax. You can go to the website listed below to see if you are eligible. If you don’t have access to a computer or don’t feel comfortable, as a family member or see your tax accountant. All I ask is that you be informed before you vote on Aug. 9.
For information on Minnesota Property Tax Refund, visit To determine eligibility and refund amounts, complete Minnesota tax form M1PR (available online at Our improved system will help you learn where your refund is in the process. You will be able to track which of the four... More

[08/04/16]   ‘Good for kids and community’ -Suzanne Brucker, social studies educator in Aitkin. 08.03.2016

First and foremost, I would like to state how proud I am to be an Aitkin teacher. I have been extremely fortunate to work with phenomenal colleagues through the years, and I consider it a privilege to work with amazing kids each and every day.
As an educator, my decision-making process, whether to support an initiative, volunteer my name for a committee, or choose the direction of my curricular activities, is always driven by the question, “Is this good for kids?” Supporting this referendum, unequivocally, is good for kids.
I have witnessed firsthand the tremendous changes in education during my years both as an educator and as a parent of four children. The requirements of education have increased and changed with societal progress and now transcend the acquisition of knowledge. The 21st century education must prepare students to be effective citizens and productive members of society, equipped for the demands of the contemporary workforce.
Students do not effectively acquire the 21st century skills that our society demands while sitting in rows in outdated classrooms. They learn these skills when instructors provide opportunities that include: research, collaboration with their peers, communication of reasoned arguments, and hands-on experiences. Kids learn and grow when creating projects that showcase their abilities and when engaged in opportunities to apply their knowledge through problem solving. As an educator, I am excited by the direction of education, and when given the opportunity, students are too. Kids are interested and motivated when they are actively engaged. This is why, as a colleague of mine correctly stated in a previous letter to this paper, “bricks and mortar matter.”
Our existing buildings limit these educational experiences for our students. Additionally, the restraints of our aging facilities have begun to impact the district’s ability to attract and retain talented instructors. This new school will be considerable economic cost to us as taxpayers, certainly. However, we also need to consider the steep price of maintaining the status quo. A school system is the heart of any community. It is one of the first things that new businesses and prospective families consider when they try to relocate. Ours can be either an asset or a liability in these decisions.
Please support an essential and long-overdue investment into our kids and community by voting “yes” on Aug. 9.

[08/04/16]   ‘Don’t nickel and dime our children’ -Lloyd and Helen Henke, Baxter. 08.03.2016

My husband and I are building a new home in the Aitkin area. Having visited Aitkin High School many times to see events our grandchildren participate in, we are very committed to seeing a new high school completed. We have had many opportunities to travel to surrounding communities and have found their schools to be very inviting and modern.
I am very much in favor of new and better opportunities even if it means higher taxes. The children and young adults attending school there deserve this as they are our future. As we are senior citizens, these young people will be the ones taking care of us as we grow older. We need them to have the advantages students at the majority of other schools across the state enjoy.
We are on a fixed income, but we feel the future for our children and grandchildren is too important to nick and dime this project by dumping money into an outdated, landlocked building with limited opportunities.

Your vote can make a difference. 6 days until you can run into the voting booths to cast yours. If you are swamped with activities Tuesday nights, vote absentee!

Be informed and vote August 9

[08/02/16]   ‘Proud of new school’ -Edward Reif, director of community relations and development, Douglas County Hospital, Alexandria. 07.27.2016.

As the director of community relations and development for the Douglas County Hospital in Alexandria, I am writing to share the benefits a new school can do for a community.
I’ve lived in Alexandria my whole life and am a 1999 graduate of Jefferson Senior High School. Our school served us well but it had outlived its useful life by more than a couple decades. It was an old building rife with asbestos that needed constant maintenance and financially did not make sense to invest in a failing asset. Instead our community chose to invest in the future and invest in education. Two years ago, we had a referendum for nearly $70 million for a 9-12 school and thankfully it passed.
One of my roles at Douglas County Hospital is recruiting physicians and professionals. I provide community tours to highlight all our community has to offer and really sell our way of life. Before our new school was built I would highlight our two new elementary schools and middle school and avoid our high school. It was embarrassing.
They loved our area and our medical community but once they saw the school and knew where their children would attend they would lose interest. At times that feeling of disappointment was palpable. Getting well educated professionals to choose our community with that liability was challenging. Now, with Alexandria Area High School, it is my first stop on these tours and oftentimes is the deciding factor on whether they choose to live here or not. With the increased enrollment, it has had a very positive impact on our local businesses as well. It means the influx of people at stores, restaurants and churches. I’m proud of our new school and what it has brought to our community.

[08/01/16]   ‘Can we afford not to?’ -Chuck and Nancy Schotzko, Aitkin. 07.27.2016.

One of the most important things we can give our children is the best education possible. And all the children in our community deserve that. While the physical plant does not make a school great, it can help in many ways.
A new, updated building that makes better use of space and can more easily adapt to future changes in education as they are needed (computers, technology, etc.) will help retain our great teachers and staff, increase student attitudes toward learning and promote pride in the school and community.
Putting money into the current building will still leave us with an inadequate, outmoded facility with many problems. We believe it would be money well spent to build a new facility now and that it would be cheaper in the long run to do so. When we see what other communities have done to educate their students, we feel that we are failing to do the best we can for our students. It will be expensive, but the financial information in the recent Independent Age shows that we are not overtaxed compared to other communities. We feel the question should be, “Can we afford not to do the very best for our children?”
We will be voting Yes for the Aitkin school referendum on August 9.

[08/01/16]   ‘Ensure high quality education’ -Roger and Lucy Stippel, Aitkin. 07.27.2016.

As retired lake property owners living in the Aitkin community, we would like to express our intent to vote yes for our new school.
Schools are extremely important to the livelihood of a community. Communities with thriving schools usually are more prosperous than their counterparts with struggling schools, where students do not have access to facilities and programs that allow them to develop their talents.
Investing in schools and then our younger people encourages the development of good businesses, hospitals and other community entities staffed by capable people who will help bring our Aitkin Community successfully into the future.
We would encourage everyone to vote yes for the investment in the new school for continued prosperity for our community.

[08/01/16]   ‘Support the task force recommendation’ -Joe Ryan, Aitkin. 07.27.2016.

After 36 years away, returning home to live in Aitkin has been a wonderful experience. In my profession, I traveled to the cities and towns in central and northern Minnesota and worked on school campuses for 29 years. I saw, firsthand, the situation and the opportunity that Aitkin is now facing. I will vote Yes in August in support of a new facility and campus for our students and community.
My decision to support the recommendation wasn’t immediate. Our children are well beyond the K-12 years and I wasn’t convinced that an entirely new building and the expenditure was necessary or the best solution. My decision evolved only after I attended the public meetings, toured our current facilities and also reviewed the issues and concerns on the school’s website. WE have significant problems that repairs and remodeling won’t fix. I commend the board for the process they established to get to this point. Professional advisors were hired and a community task force was formed to understand the issues, to evaluate the options and costs and then determine and recommend the best solution for the Aitkin community. After hundreds of volunteer hours and due diligence, this referendum is the “best value” recommendation of our Aitkin School’s task force. It is a plan with a vision for Aitkin’s future.
This referendum is about our children, grandchildren and the many families that make Aitkin their home. We have exceptional and committed teachers, coaches and administrators. But, make no mistake, the quality of our facilities matters to the education process and experience. They matter to the culture and climate of any school and community and to educational system outcomes. New families, businesses and industry will make decisions to locate here based on the school system we provide.
We have a choice. Voting No will only delay the inevitable and pass the clearly identified problems on for another generation to deal with, all while spending tens of millions of tax dollars renovating, fixing and adding-on without actually solving the core problems. Or, we vote Yes and invest in the future of education for our children and grandchildren and for the progress of our Aitkin community. Let’s add high quality schools to the mix of thriving churches, superb healthcare and infrastructure as another reason to attract people to live and raise families in a community like ours.

For those who haven't heard... the ISD #1 school board has purchased 221.73 acres of land from Gary and Mary Lindgren in section 36 of Aitkin township for $750,000.

[07/27/16]   Did you know...
Over 11 teams (middle school through high school) have to share two gyms in winter.
Special education requirements are far higher today than they were when the school was built.
There is nowhere for students to work collaboratively in the current high school.
Industrial tech students are working on equipment that is decades old and does not replicate the work environment.
We have no green space at the high school.
We have virtually no natural lighting in the high school.
There is an air quality problem in the school.
This is just a hint of the problems that exist at Rippleside and AHS.

The task force seriously considered a renovation to fix these issues. The price tag to adequately address the problems came in around $40 million.

A renovation is not a long term solution. We will be having the discussion again in the not too distant future about what to do with our aging buildings. Only this time we will have $40 million in sunk costs.

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