Voters came and went at the Washington Rec Center Tuesday evening, one of the locations for the Faribault School District election. (Misty Schwab/Faribault Daily News)

When it came to increasing the operating levy for Faribault Public Schools, voters gave the district partial approval.

The first question on the ballot, which asked voters to approve a tax increase to fund a seven-period day at Faribault High School, passed by a mere 90 votes — 2,357 (51%) to 2,267 (49%).

This marks the second time the Faribault community has passed a levy increase in 26 years. With this approval, the general education revenue increases by $221 per pupil. For the average Faribault home, valued at $175,000, the tax impact will be $65 per year.

The second question, which asked for increased funding to pay for additional academic support and more transportation options, failed by 249 votes — 2,436 (53%) to 2,187 (47%).

“We actually were hoping we would get two passed, but we’re elated that we can implement the seven-period day next fall,” Superintendent Todd Sesker said Tuesday evening. “We’re very happy.”

Board Chair John Currie said he, too, is pleased with the passage of the first question but disappointed the second one failed. He believes the seven-period day will benefit not only students but the community as a whole.

“I was confident the first one is going to pass,” said Currie. “… Anyone who had students go through the high school understood exactly what the problem was.”

Since 1984, students at Faribault High School have been working against the clock to fit their required classes and desired electives into a six-period day. Without enough slots in their schedules to take electives like music and foreign language classes in the same year, many students enrolled in summer classes.

The six-period day has become problematic in other ways over time. Since 1984, the state has increased the number of required classes students need for graduation. That further limits the number of electives students can squeeze into their packed schedules, and since elective classes have also become more focused on college and career readiness, FHS students have lost those opportunities.

“We were the only Big 9 Conference school on the six-period day, this puts (us) on an even playing field,” said Sesker.

With the passage of the first levy question, Principal Jamie Bente has already started planning for the 2020 schedule. Since students register for fall classes in January and February, it’s crunch time for FHS staff. They need to not only update the system to allow for seven periods but finalize course descriptions. In August, Bente asked teachers to make tentative plans that could have been nixed if the first ballot question failed.

“We have in our mind what this looks like,” said Bente. “We are amazingly excited. We are ready to go, ready to make this school the best possible school it can be for all our students.”

Sesker thanked the community for its support in passing question one as well as the City Council and Mayor Kevin Voracek, The Faribault Area Chamber of Commerce and its director, Nort Johnson, state Sen. John Jasinski (R-Faribault), state Rep. Brian Daniels (R-Faribault) and “many other leaders throughout the community.”

Currie also acknowledged the hard work of Sesker and the Vote “Yes” Committee spearheaded by Board members Yvette Marthaler and John Bellingham. Other members of this group included Cari Tuma, Nichole Loius, Travis McColley, Cheryl Freund, Kari VanDerVeen, Matt Steichen, Andrew Adams and Corey Luettel.

“We’re thankful to the community for their support,” said Currie, “and we promise to do what we said we’re going to do.”

Reporter Misty Schwab can be reached at 507-333-3135. Follow her on Twitter @APGmisty. ©Copyright 2019 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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