Mitchell School District leaders increasing civic engagement ahead of June athletic facilities bond vote
Joe Childs said he feels it’s important to dispel the misinformation about the project. The vote in June is only about adding athletic facilities to the MHS project.
MITCHELL — The Mitchell School District is increasing its public presence to community groups in the city to inform potential voters ahead of a vote in June on a bond to fund athletic facility upgrades to pair with a new high school.
Speaking to civic groups, including the Mitchell Lions Club on Tuesday, school officials are trying to get accurate information to members of the community about what is being voted upon on June 6 at the Davison County Fairgrounds. Mitchell acting superintendent Joe Childs and activities director Cory Aadland spoke to the Lions and answered questions about what will be and what’s not part of the proposed facility plan.
“For me, it’s just important that people exercise their civic duty and they vote,” Childs said. “And that when they do, they have as much information as possible about what’s at stake. I’m not trying to necessarily impact a yes or no vote campaign but informing the public is important on this issue.”
Childs said he feels it’s important to dispel the misinformation about the project. Among those chief points is that the new high school is being voted on. That project is already underway after the Mitchell Board of Education approved $45 million for a new school in January, with construction starting this month. This vote in June is only about adding athletic facilities to the project simultaneously.
“We have so many ways to communicate but communicating to the general public can be hard at times.” Aadland said. “We just want to get that accurate information to voters so they can make an informed decision.”
Here are some additional questions school officials say they’re answering about the project:
When and who can vote on this?
Voters in the Mitchell School District can vote on the bond issue on Election Day, which is June 6. That’s more than just the city of Mitchell but also voters in rural Davison County and western and northwest Hanson County. Absentee voting can begin on May 22.
The passage of the bond issue requires a 60% vote of approval from the public. If the bond vote is successful, the project has a 24-month timeline and could get in line with the current MHS project underway. That would put the opening date for the MHS complex in spring or fall 2025, Childs said.
What about my taxes?
The bond would increase taxes by 44 cents per $1,000 in taxable value. The example the school district has used is $3.67 per month or $44 per year on a home that has a taxable value of $100,000.
“The burden will never be bigger than it is right now,” Childs said, noting that the school would benefit from additional new properties and construction to lessen the tax base and additional properties returning to the tax rolls after being part of TIF projects. He also said that while valuations of property continue to rise, the percentage of taxable value and levy figures have risen at a much smaller percentage.
The bond would not authorize more than $17 million in spending, providing a hard cap to what the project can entail. The bond would be paid off over a period of up to 30 years.
“These aren’t things we just dreamt up,” Childs said of the plans. “They are realistic to our (district’s) current and future needs.”
How would the new space be used?
The plans call for three new gymnasiums of varying sizes, a new wrestling/competitive dance room, new locker rooms and a weight room facility. In all, there would be nearly 55,000 square feet of additional space for MHS activities, nearly doubling what MHS has available now across 29,500 square feet.
That comes as Childs pointed out Mitchell had only four varsity sports in 1962 — it now has 20 — when the current high school was built and has had five times increases in participation, coaches/staff and spectator interest in that time.
The largest gym, which would be able to seat up to 2,300 people, would replace the current MHS gym’s functions as a home site for volleyball, wrestling and gymnastics. A second auxiliary gym could hold additional practices and games and seat up to 1,200 spectators.
The numbers of locker rooms available can flex depending on the type of event being hosted, Aadland said, ranging from six to eight, depending on the event. The current high school has four locker rooms, which have numerous plumbing issues.
A third gym space would serve as the multi-purpose gym, likely to accommodate various sports depending on the season. For example, in the fall, it could give competitive cheer a place to practice, in the winter, serve as the home site for gymnastics practices and competitions and in the spring, allow for indoor practice space for sports like golf or softball.
Smaller gymnastics competitions could take place in the multipurpose gym, Aadland said, because it will have a set of bleachers and the equipment will already be in the facility. The gym would be available for youth-level basketball and volleyball practices along with games during a tournament setting but would not have a full-length court for basketball.
What about the Corn Palace?
MHS will continue to host its varsity-level basketball games at the Corn Palace in nearly all instances, Aadland said. But in cases where there’s a conflict, Mitchell would have another adequate gymnasium to host high school games. Aadland said he doesn’t feel comfortable hosting games in the high school now with the current flooring.
Having additional gym and practice space at the new high school would alleviate scheduling conflicts with the Corn Palace involved with Dakota Wesleyan University games and practices and other area schools renting out the building. If constructed, the new primary gym also could be a host site for potential SDHSAA SoDak 16 and state meet events in the future.
What about outdoor sports?
Three practice fields will be rebuilt as part of the athletic facility upgrades proposed in the bond, and along with Joe Quintal Field, it would give MHS four outdoor fields. Those fields would be north of the current high school and between North Winsor and Mentzer streets, south of East 11th Avenue, where MHS has one outdoor practice field now.
Aadland said the project will allow nearly all of the MHS sports to remain on campus for practices, with softball and golf serving as exceptions.
What will the new facilities cost to non-school entities to use?
Childs said there is not yet a cost structure in place for the facilities but one would be created closer to the building’s potential opening. He said the general structure is that if programs are being used to help MHS student-athletes, a fair use agreement is put in place to use the facility. “We’re not trying to put a charge on the backs of people who are trying to help our students,” he said.
Childs said that might look differently if an outside school district or organization wants to rent the facility and is using the district’s utilities and janitorial personnel.
“Even with the facilities we have now, they’re busy constantly now, with volleyball tournaments and wrestling, basketball, indoor soccer, using them for practices and not just with high school kids but kids of all ages,” Childs said.
The question was framed around the usage of the MHS Performing Arts Center, which was constructed in 2017, and whether that facility is being used adequately by the community. Aadland said the facility is frequently used by the school district’s own practices, rehearsals and performances, which can limit how much it’s rented out.