Desjarlait asks House panel $55 million for Red Lake school building projects
ST. PAUL -- Red Lake School District Superintendent Stuart Desjarlait vowed two things to Minnesota legislators during a visit to the Capitol. Desjarlait said if lawmakers approve $55 million in state money this year for Red Lake school building ...
ST. PAUL -- Red Lake School District Superintendent Stuart Desjarlait vowed two things to Minnesota legislators during a visit to the Capitol.
Desjarlait said if lawmakers approve $55 million in state money this year for Red Lake school building projects, the district won't ask for more.
And if the request isn't fulfilled: "We'll be back next year," Desjarlait told members of the House Education Finance Committee during a hearing Wednesday.
Desjarlait and other Red Lake school officials testified before the committee in support of their request for $55.38 million. It would be part of the 2006 state public works bonding package. Lawmakers could seek more than a total of $900 million in borrowed funding.
If the district received its full request, it could complete three main construction projects, officials said. They want nearly $30 million to renovate and construct additions to the Red Lake Middle School and High School.
An estimated $23 million is earmarked for an addition of classrooms at Red Lake Elementary School and construction to connect the school with the district's early childhood center. The remaining dollars would be used for the addition of a media center and Head Start center at the Ponemah Elementary School.
Some of the district's buildings are more than 50 years old, Desjarlait said, and problems such as leaky ceilings and mold growth have plagued the buildings in recent years.
"Inadequate facilities create days lost for students," Desjarlait said.
The school district previously received $30 million for construction projects over a three-year period. Red Lake's latest funding request has drawn more attention because the project includes renovations needed following the school shooting one year ago.
While the district is seeking $55 million, Gov. Tim Pawlenty so far has pledged $10 million. The Republican governor said in January that he was willing to work with the Red Lake district to secure more funding.
Rep. Brita Sailer, DFL-Park Rapids, who is sponsoring the request in the House, said she viewed Pawlenty's proposal as a "placeholder" and expects that lawmakers will approve more funding.
"We really need to finish up the renovations at the Red Lake schools," Sailer told the committee.