Voices needed for field, facility discussions

By Dr. Nancy Rajanen, Superintendent of ISD #110

Readers of the Waconia Patriot have been reading about the continual growth of the Waconia Public School population for the past six years. Our current enrollment of 3,700 students is a growth of 775 students since 2007. As a logical response to the continued growth, members of the Waconia School Board and administration are in the process of evaluating school facilities for the future. We want to be very intentional about our planning, and develop options that meet the needs of the entire community.
This community has been very resourceful in the development of facilities that serve multiple purposes.
Safari Island, which was built as the result of a joint powers agreement between the city of Waconia and the school district in 2000, serves the students of Clearwater Middle School with gymnasium and pool space for instruction from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. during the school year. At all other times, it is operated by the city of Waconia, and provides a community recreational facility that supports overall wellness in area residents.
This type of shared space arrangements require vision, planning, and a continued commitment to the needs of the entire community — both school-aged and adult.
One of the critical needs identified by our school staff and Community Education staff is a shortage of fields. The explosion of youth soccer, softball, baseball, football, t-ball, and lacrosse has put incredible strain on existing fields. Part of our future planning must include a discussion of fields.
We need to identify the number of fields needed, usage, ownership and maintenance, in order to balance the needs of students, youth programs, youth leagues, and adult programs. It is important to all parties to have these conversations within the context of our overall school space needs and the city comprehensive planning.
To that end, the School Board has been reaching out to the various municipalities within the district boundaries. A joint meeting with the Waconia City Council is planned for Feb. 24. The School Board will also be setting times for Community Stakeholder Listening Sessions, as an opportunity to hear from members of the public about space needs in the schools and outdoor facilities needs in the community.
Our elected leaders want to hear your voice on the topic of facilities and fields. There are not any right or wrong opinions, and a broad perspective will help us make good recommendations. We will make efforts to hold listening sessions at various times of the day/night and different days of the week in order to gather as much input as possible.
If you are interested in providing input, please contact Jessica Kilian at (952) 856-4514 or [email protected] We will add your name to a list of interested individuals and be sure that you are notified of meetings.  You can also contact me directly via e-mail or phone at [email protected] or (952) 442-0601.
Thanks in advance for your involvement in our future planning!