The Referendum Passed! Now What?

Audrey Sheehy, print editor in chief

On Tuesday May 5th, Edina voters approved the referendum, which calls for $125 million dollars to renovate Edina High School to make it more accommodating and modern.

“It is an exciting time for our school district…I was hopeful it had a good chance to pass and I was elated when it did pass. I love this place and any opportunity that we have to help our students and staff and stay on the cutting edge,” said EHS principal Bruce Locklear.

The basics of the plan include moving the freshman into the high school, building modern classrooms that allow teachers to move from one-on-one work to group settings easily, and creating a multipurpose activities center. Taxpayers approved a $299 tax increase per month on the typical average $400,000 home in Edina. However, the more important questions have yet to be answered.

“…creating a 9-12 high school has been a conversation with parents in this district since I arrived,” said Dr. Locklear. The idea behind making EHS a 9-12 high school is bringing consistency in classes and requirements for all students in the district. By having freshman in the high school, students will be able to attend four years of rigorous courses with multiple options to pick the paths best personalized to their learning. With eight semesters in the transcript, students will have the opportunity to bounce back from a bad semester.

However, facilities are the main focus for the money in the referendum. New facilities will be restructured including plans for new building renovations, furniture, and athletic fields. Layouts for the renovations have not yet been finalized. However, discussions will begin this spring and continue into the fall. Plans are expected to be finished by January of 2016.

Staff, students and parents will have a say in the changes to the school. The school is planning on creating an implementation committee that will have a few teachers from the high school and the middle school, four students, and four parents. This committee will run through all the plans. “We want to make sure that it is a transparent process and we have feedback at every level,” said Locklear.

Students not on the committee will have a say in the furniture that the school buys. Furniture vendors will be coming in next year to set up in four or five different locations in the high school. “We will have engagement opportunities for students along the way. We need to get the implementation committee in place and then everything else will follow.”

Construction will be interrupting classes during the 2016-2017 school year. “We have to work feverishly. It will be a fast track construction process,” said Dr. Locklear. To minimize distractions, construction will be segmented and different zones of the building will be renovated at different times. Soundproof settings will be built, but minimizing distractions totally will not be guaranteed. “It’s a disruption we will manage and do okay with,” said Dr. Locklear.

Locklear believes the referendum will bring success to each student’s learning at EHS. Based on the success of the implementation of the Bring Your Own Device program, the referendum will enhance the learning environment. Locklear, along with a few members of staff toured high schools in Alexandria and their classroom settings; “You have classrooms and then you have areas for students to break out and do small group work. Its creating flexibility. When we talk about it as a staff our favorite word is and. It’s a class room and a break out space. It’s a break out space and a work area. Versus or or or,” said Locklear. With the referendum possibilities for new ways of learning will be easily implemented. For example, instead of having small classroom settings, one teacher would lecture to five sections that would then break into small groups to discuss. Teachers will be able to maintain their own techniques for their classrooms, but the referendum’s goal is to allow them to grow and expand into any method they choose. However no new curriculum has been set to this point, and staff has not had a conversation about the changes coming with the referendum. “I have no idea what the plan is going to be. I am clueless and at this point I need to be because we need to create the plan with the staff. Hopefully the curriculum and the renovations can be synonymous.”

On the other hand, many Edina residents do not support the the referendum. Specifically, Edina Community Acting for Responsible Educational Spending (Edina CARES). They believe the school district is being frivolous with tax revenue by asking for money that they don’t even have a plan for. When the referendum was voted on, there were no building plans presented and there still aren’t any. The money also will not be going to provide more resources to the teachers that make Edina’s education top-notch. Edina CARES believes this is where the money should be placed, rather than in changing “the traditional classroom setting”.

Edina CARES claims that the referendum will put Edina $788 million dollars in debt, and the tax burdens will be on Edina residents for the next 21 years, which Edina CARES argues is driving grandparents out of Edina,  teaching children terrible spending habits, and leaving the younger generations with high taxes. The school board also does not have a plan to fix traffic in the parking lot of EHS, which is a huge problem, but they still want to add roughly six hundred and fifty more ninth graders to the school. Also, the wetlands at the base of the school will be taking $40 million of the budget. Edina CARES argues that this will destroy valuable habitat that sustains nine mile creek and the Mississippi river. To learn more about their opposition to the referendum, visit

The referendum was a controversial issue, but now that it has passed the steps are looking towards the future. What will become of EHS? This question still remains unanswered because no plan has been set in stone.