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Merrill Area Public Schools survey voters on a new facility plan


The Merrill Area Public Schools have had funding issues for years.

After their 2022 operational referendum failed, the district needed to rethink their facilities.

In November, the district sent out a survey to Merrill residents asking for input on a new facility plan.

In 2022, after voters in the Merrill Area Public Schools, or MAPS, rejected two operational referendums, the districts cut 30 staff positions, reduced bussing, and eliminated programs.

Recent state budget increases means they won’t need to go to a third operational referendum next year, but they still wanted to know why earlier referendums failed.

Through surveys, they found out that the community thought paying to maintain the mostly unused building for Jefferson Elementary was financially irresponsible.

That prompted conversations about the district’s facility usage, which sparked a new facility base plan.

They decided to move Pine River School for Young Learners, Bridges Virtual Academy, and the Northern Achievement Center into the Jefferson Elementary School building.

Then they’d tear down the Northern Achievement Center and the Storage Building, and remove the District Office and maintenance building.

They’re also planning a number of renovation projects at Jefferson.

All in all, the estimated cost for the base plan is about $16 million.

This is Shannon Murray, superintendent of MAPS.

“It was 59 or 60% of our overall respondents were in favor of that plan, support for plans above that, another 5 million for repairs or whatever that would happen to be, waned after that,” said Murray.

The district also asked the community whether they’d prefer to build a new middle school on the high school campus or renovate the existing facility.

“We put that out there to kind of float that to see where people were and people were very, very split on that subject. So we will be doing nothing with that for a while,” explained Murray.

The district may hold a capital projects referendum in April or November, but the board is still in discussions.

“I'm really pleased with the process that we've done. We did a very thorough process, had the community involved, it was open to anybody that wanted input,” said Murray.

There will be a special school board meeting on January 10th to decide next steps.

Hannah Davis-Reid is a WXPR Reporter.
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