By Ivan Raconteur
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN Lester Prairie Schools have no plans to eliminate fine arts programs, according to Superintendent/High School Principal Mike McNulty.
The district has been making preparations for a fall referendum for building improvements.
One of the changes in the initial plan includes elimination of the stage on the west side of the gym.
McNulty said he has heard some questions from people who are concerned about this change and worried that the drama program might be eliminated.
He explained that the plan included a raised area that could be used as a stage in the new commons area.
In response to the concerns, McNulty said he contacted the architects for the project and directed them to prepare two options.
One would include a raised area in the commons area that could be used for performances.
The other would modify the plans to keep part of the existing stage, but reduce its size.
Only about half of the stage area is used anyway, McNulty said, and the rest of the space is used for storage.
He also said that the stage is used for only a handful of events each year.
The commons area in the proposed plan could accommodate gatherings of up to 200 people, and larger events could be conducted in the gym, McNulty said.
Even if the stage is eliminated, a portable platform could be used for events in the gym, he added.
McNulty said there is no plan to eliminate the drama program, and it could even expand in the future, as the music program has. He noted that one of the new teachers has a background in plays and musicals, and might have an interest in helping with the drama program.
McNulty said the school typically presents two plays each year, although only one was staged last year.
When the two proposals are ready, they will be presented to the school board for approval.
The referendum process so far
McNulty provided a recap of the process that the district used to get to this point.
Late last summer, the district began looking at improvements that are needed at the school.
The school board engaged two companies, TSP, an architectural, engineering, interior design, and construction services company, and Energy Services Group (ESG).
TSP focused primarily on improvements that are needed in the school’s science labs, and on the proposed kitchen expansion and commons area, while ESG conducted a complete energy audit and 10-year evaluation plan.
In addition to the school board, the school’s strategic planning committee was involved in the process, McNulty said.
This committee included (former) School Board Member Chester Hoernemann, school counselor Christine Mattson, teacher Terry Helland, (former) facilities supervisor Pat Fogarty, School Board Member Karla Heigl, (former) City Council Member Larry Hoof, Mayor Andy Heimerl, City Council Member Ron Foust, teachers Kelly Kramer, Julie Olson, Joe Scoblic, Jane Roth, School Board Member Rollie Radtke, and business manager Alice Daak.
According to McNulty, the goal of the committee is to plan for where the school wants to be in five years.
Also involved in the process was Springsted, the company that serves as the district’s financial advisor.
The school board voted to move forward using ESG to prepare plans and help with the process of preparing for a fall referendum.
The plan was presented during a school board meeting, and McNulty has presented information to other community groups.
McNulty said he has scheduled a presentation at St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church, 124 Maple Street North, at 7 p.m. Aug. 24.
He will also present information and answer questions about the plans during the school open house, 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 31.
McNulty plans to conduct other informational meetings with community groups this fall, and will send out mailings once the district receives approval from the state.