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COMMENTARY: Be informed about Cass Lake-Bena referendum

Another school year is underway at Cass Lake-Bena Schools, which is a busy and exciting time for many families. As fall activities get into full swing, another important issue is on the horizon for our schools. The Cass Lake-Bena School District has a $37.8 million bond referendum to address the district's facility needs. The referendum question will be on the ballot in the Tuesday, Nov. 7 election.

The primary goal of the proposed facility improvements is to update older buildings and maintain newer buildings, providing greater access for the community, and enhanced security and better learning environments for students. If approved, the funding from this bond referendum would go toward projects that would affect students of all ages and abilities.

Rochelle Johnson

At the elementary level, funding would be used to build a new, 75,000-square-foot intermediate grades 3-5 elementary school on the current middle school/high school campus. This new building would have a larger gym for community use and alleviate overcrowding at the elementary school. The existing elementary school would be renovated into a PreK-grade 2 primary school. The first grade wing would be used for Pre-K classrooms, the kindergarten rooms would be updated, and the other existing spaces would be renovated for additional classrooms and special education. The school's lockers and boiler would also be replaced.Significant upgrades and repairs would also be made at the Alternative Learning Center (ALC) and District Resource Center (DRC). The oldest part of the building (constructed in 1954) would be demolished and replaced with an addition that includes restrooms, gym storage, special education classrooms, and district offices. The building's fire protection systems, gym mechanical and electrical systems, and security cameras would also be updated, and repairs would be made to the building's exterior.

At the high school, repairs and improvements would include a secure entry and office renovation, replacing bleachers in the gym, adding ventilation to the fitness center, data closet cooling and water heater replacement, exterior repairs, and upgrading security cameras.

Repairs and improvements at the middle school would include upgrading the main entry to be more secure, improving the boiler capacity, adding dehumidification to the cafeteria and gym, upgrading the security camera and paging systems, and creating flexible small group learning spaces and additional special education spaces.

More information is available on our website,, under District — Referendum. There you will find detailed information on what projects would be completed if the referendum is approved, the estimated tax impact for property owners, background information on the facilities assessment process, and voting information.

All community members are invited to a community meeting about the referendum on Thursday, Sept. 28, at White Earth Community Center (former American Legion). Join us for refreshments beginning at 5:30 p.m. followed by a presentation at 6 p.m. I would like to encourage everyone to become informed and engaged in this process, and to vote on Nov. 7. I have presented information on the referendum to various groups in the community, and welcome more opportunities to do so. You can reach me at 218-335-2204 or

Rochelle Johnson is the superintendent of Cass Lake-Bena Schools.