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Cass Lake-Bena school facilities vote is Tuesday

CASS LAKE—Voters will decide Tuesday, Nov. 7, whether Cass Lake-Bena Schools will build a brand-new elementary school and renovate several others.

School district leaders put a $37.8 million bonding referendum on Tuesday's ballots. If voters approve it, the district would borrow that money to build a an elementary school for grades 3-5, renovate its existing elementary for pre-k through second grade, and update and repair chunks of three other buildings.

Residents at a series of community input meetings over the spring and summer seemed generally supportive of the plan, but some said they were worried the tax hike it would cause. Others were more vociferous, asking Superintendent Rochelle Johnson and other district leaders pointed questions about the project's cost and due diligence.

District leaders have long contended that the plan is necessary, pointing to a packed elementary school, long student waiting list, aging mechanical and electrical systems and a facilities assessment that concluded more of the same.

Cass Lake-Bena voters won't be the only ones voting in that area Tuesday. Nearby Laporte Public School and Northland Community Schools have three open school board seats between them. And, farther south, Pillager School District has a $13.2 million building project of its own up for a vote.

To view election results as they're reported by the Minnesota Secretary of State on election day:

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the Cass Lake-Bena referendum, hours for voting are noon to 8 p.m. Voters in Bena and Winnie Portage will vote at the Bena Community Center. All other voters of the district will vote at the Pike Bay Town Hall. Voters living in precincts that vote by mail in statewide elections will not receive a ballot by mail for this election. To verify where you vote, visit

For questions on polling locations and hours, voter registration, and absentee voting, contact Cass County Elections at (218) 547-7260.

Joe Bowen

Joe Bowen covers education (mostly K-12) and American Indian affairs for the Bemidji Pioneer.

He's from Minneapolis, earned a degree from the College of St. Benedict - St. John's University in 2009, and worked at the Perham Focus near Detroit Lakes and Sun Newspapers in suburban Minneapolis before heading to the Pioneer.

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