November 5 was a great day for students, families and community members in Owatonna! That’s the day our residents approved building a new Owatonna High School and agreed they want to see our current high school repurposed in some way for district and community use. After our original high school proposal was narrowly defeated in May by a margin of 120 votes, it was especially gratifying that the vote on the new high school passed with 56% yes votes and a margin of 1,300 votes. We are Owatonna Proud!

I am humbled and so incredibly grateful to our community for this double vote of confidence.

Both the new high school and the repurposed existing high school will benefit our entire community, not just our students.

Once the new high school is built, we will be able to provide:

New learning spaces to prepare students for 21st century career and college opportunities

Modern classrooms, labs and shops outfitted with current technology and tools

A flexible media center that will support a variety of learning opportunities

Career education spaces with updated vocational labs, modern industrial equipment, and flexibility to accommodate changes as students explore various career pathways

Secure entrances

A number of spaces that can be used by students during the day and the community at night — for example: a lunchroom space that doubles as a community commons, a 900 seat auditorium paired with an improved music area, an athletic facilities both inside and out, and Enough parking to accommodate evening and weekend events

We owe tremendous thanks to the corporate donors who will contribute money or materials to not only make the new high school an amazing learning environment — but whose contributions also reduced the tax impact to our residents by 20%. This level of giving to a school district is truly unprecedented. It speaks volumes of the trust these businesses have in our community and our school district, and we are humbled by their generosity. Thank you to Federated Insurance, Mayo Clinic Health System, Gopher Sport, Viracon, Wenger Corporation and Wenger Foundation!

As we look ahead, our next steps will be to develop design and input teams to help envision exactly what the new high school should look like to truly meet our staff and student needs. There will be opportunities for community involvement and input in that planning process, which we will be promoting in the near future. Similarly, we will engage our community in thinking about the future of the existing high school — but since students won’t move into the new high school until fall 2023, that process won’t begin for a while yet.

As we look ahead, we do so with gratitude and pride. While I am always proud to be the Owatonna Schools superintendent, right now I am a little bit prouder. Thank you for your commitment to, and support for, our students, staff and families. Strong schools truly do make strong communities!

Jeff Elstad is the superintendent of Owatonna Public Schools. He may be reached at the district office at 444-8610 or via email at jelstad@owatonna.k12.mn.us.

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