By Mila Van Weelden @milavanweelden
Thirty-six million dollars sounds like a substantial amount of money, but it could be the perfect amount to give the Marion Independent School District the long-overdue upgrade many have been longing for.
OPN is an engineering company the school hired to help take the district to the next level. A committee of about 45 Marion residents and faculty were put together to decide which of OPN’s ideas would be the best fit for the district. From August to December, the Faculty Advisory Committee met five times to discuss what would benefit Marion most. A plan was created that immediately grabbed the students, faculty, and community’s attention. Mr. Mike Manderscheid, high school athletic director, was highly involved. He said, “So everything that’s included- the big items that are included are a multi-activity complex out back… an 800 seat auditorium, a new elementary school, and updates to FMI- part of it new, part of it updating.”
The multi-activity complex will be located on the high school campus directly behind the building. Marching band, football, track, soccer, physical education class, and strength and conditioning will be able to utilize this complex for their individual needs. The complex will have a turf field, an accessible press box, lights, scoreboards, an eight-lane track, a storage facility, home and visitor concessions, restrooms, and bleachers.
The element of the bond that has a myriad of people excited is the new auditorium. This building can hold up to approximately 800 people compared to the 323 person auditorium currently in place. The location is yet to be determined, but there are six possibilities of placement. In addition to the auditorium, there will be new restrooms, six new classrooms, and new support spaces. The former auditorium, choir room, and five classrooms will be repurposed.
The first and arguably the biggest impact in relation to the bond will take place at the elementary level. Located at our current sports facility at Thomas Park, a brand new elementary school is said to be built. This school will take the place of Starry Elementary that is located directly across from the high school. Ms. Madi Ramaekers served as a high school teacher representative on the advisory committee. “We are going to be able to spread out students in classrooms which will help with the flow of classes. With the new elementary school down at the Thomas Field area, we will be able to alleviate a lot of issues that Starry has right now,” said Ramaekers. This new school will add 20 parking spaces, safe drop-off/pick-up areas, 15 possible bus parking spaces, a large green space area, and it will be 3,000 square feet bigger than Starry.
Francis Marion Intermediate school also gets a part of the funds. The committee is looking to enlarge the 3rd Avenue roadway for bus drop-off, as well as more staff parking and relocating the play area. The plan is also to remove the east wing of the school and add a secure entry, eight new classrooms, a music/meeting room, art room, and restrooms. In eight to ten years, the committee is looking to further FMI renovations.
Most Marion students, faculty, and community members are in support of the plan for many reasons. Manderscheid said, “The biggest reason I am for the plan is that it is tax neutral which means property taxes are not increasing. Plus, it also hits additional needs that we have: we need a new auditorium, we need to update our complex down at Thomas park, we need to secure more buildings and make them sustainable for the next 50-60 years. So there are lots of positives.” Elliott Dyrland, sophomore, is a student in both football and show choir, therefore he would be affected in multiple ways regarding the plan. “I am for the plan. I am most excited about the new auditorium because the one we have is not that good. And I’m excited about the new football field because it is going to be better, and it is going to be closer to the school,” said Dyrland.
Not only are people who attend Marion going to benefit, but people that are part of the Marion community will benefit as well. Ramaekers said, “Benefiting the schools overall benefits the community. It keeps families here; it keeps families engaged. It just really bridges that connection between school and community that is positive for both sides. So hopefully more interaction, more availability, easier access–that type of thing.”
Early voting to pass this bond will take place now until March 1st at Lindale Mall, 11:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday for anyone over the age of 18. You can request an absentee ballot from the Linn County Auditor by February 19th. Otherwise, you can vote on March 2nd, 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. at either Ascension Lutheran Church on Grand Avenue or the Marion City Hall on 6th Avenue. If you have questions, information can be found on the MISD website or posted in the high school cafeteria. Information will also be emailed to families in the district, and it is also shared on various social media pages.