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Column: Making our schools and students ready for tomorrow

By Christine Osorio, District 622 superintendent

One of the most exciting things about being a school superintendent is ensuring our schools and staff are doing all they can to prepare our students for life after graduation. This preparation begins the minute they enter our schools as preschoolers or kindergartners and continues until the day they receive their high school diploma.

Our vision in District 622 is for safe, up-to-date, and healthy learning environments for all students to help them be ready for tomorrow. We have an opportunity to address this vision by updating facilities across the district, touching every building in some way.

Over the past two years, district staff and building experts have been assessing the age, efficiency and learning environments in our schools. We have engaged our staff, parents and community members in this process, asking for their ideas and input.

Based on that extensive review and planning process, our School Board unanimously approved bringing a request to our community for bond funds to improve schools across the district. The request will be on the May 14 ballot, and the vote is open to all School District 622 residents.

If voters approve this request, our schools would see several improvements:

• All schools would get secure entrances to improve school safety

• All schools would get modern furniture and flexible classroom spaces for independent, small group, and large group learning

• Several schools would be renovated or rebuilt

• Some schools would be closed or repurposed

These changes would result in a major investment in our schools, students and staff. But because we are currently paying off debt, we can make this $275 million investment with a minimal tax increase. If voters approve this request, the average homeowner would see a tax increase of $5 per month.

Why do we feel this is the right time for this districtwide investment? Several reasons, including:

• Most of our school buildings are over 50 years old and are not designed for today's learning environment.

• Many buildings have traffic congestion, safety and security concerns.

• Teachers are using closets and other inappropriate spaces for small group work and staff offices.

• Classroom furniture is designed for lecture, with little flexibility for small group, large group, one-on-one, and collaborative learning.

• Many buildings have roofs, parking lots, fixtures, heating systems, and equipment in need of update and repair.

We work hard to be financially responsible, and taking care of our schools is part of that responsibility. We are proud to regularly receive the Minnesota Department of Education School Finance Award for timely submission of financial data and accuracy in financial reporting. We saved taxpayers more than $7 million by refinancing bonds over the last three years. And we maximize every dollar we receive. In fact, our total school taxes are lower than most comparable school districts — and would remain so even if voters approve this referendum.

I encourage you to learn more so you can make an informed vote on May 14. Visit our referendum website at or attend one of the upcoming public information sessions, both at 6 p.m.: April 4 at the District Education Center (2520 East 12th Ave, North St. Paul) and April 18 at Carver Elementary (2680 Upper Afton Road, Maplewood).

Thank you for your support for District 622 students!