One step at a time


Jade Hanson

Bond meeting on Monday morning to approve a change to the ballot language.

Jade Hanson, Writer

On Feb. 4, 2019, at 7 a.m. the School Board had a special meeting to approve a change to the ballot language. This was to accept a gift from the Wenger Foundation to be designated to the upcoming bond referendum.

Originally the bond maximum asking number was $138 million, and on Jan. 28 the number was lowered to $118 million with a donation from within the community. Superintendent Mr. Jeff Elstad gave insight to another possible reduction from a local business. The goal is to amend the ballot language to set the board authorization of bonds at $116 million versus $118 million. Mr. Elstad said, “This will greatly reduce the burden put on our taxpayers.”

The goal is to amend the ballot language to set the board authorization of bonds at $116 million versus $118 million.

The total anticipated cost to build a new high school is $138,000,000 which includes the cost of the land, building a new school and athletic complex and the demolition of the existing OHS.

The bond amount reduction is a direct reflection of corporate and local business gifts that have been donated towards the goal of a new high school. Mr. Elstad said, “Other gifts have been given to the district that we cannot monetize right now, but will be recognized in the final amount that will be bonded in July, should we have a successful bond election.”

The Owatonna business community will have donated between 20 to 25 percent of the project, which in turn shows how dedicated Owatonna’s business community is to invest in a new high school. Any donations of money and other gifts are to be directly put into the amount needed to construct the high school. Some gifts are to be in the form of products made in Owatonna, which will add to the pride within the community.

If the bond is not approved, Mr. Elstad is worried about the loss of potential donations within the community for a future bond towards a high school. Mr. Mark Sebring was explaining how Wenger and Viracon said they have offered to make a donation. He said, “It could amount to as much as $500,000 from each of these companies.”

Not the first new high school proposal

The proposal to build a new high school has been placed before the community three times in the past 25 years.

1996- OHS, OJHS, Wilson. (Pass)

2007- Operating Levy and All Day KG. (Fail)

2008- Bond for $128.5 million for New High School and Elementary. (Fail)

2010- Bond and Levy for $30 million for Pillsbury site and All Day KG. (Fail)

2011- Bond for $24.6 million for Pillsbury site and Willow Creek. (Fail)

Nov. 2015-  Bond for $78 million for Deferred maintenance, safety and security and school building additions, such as the Owatonna Middle School, the movement of a few elementary schools and the ALC. (Pass)

May 2019- The current bond offering is for a different site than previously discussed bond requests for a new high school. This time around the site will be on a substantially larger parcel of land than the Pillsbury site. It will allow parking, green space and practice/athletic fields. What sets this request apart from previous ones is the strong backing from the business community, which is looking to make this bond election more promising. (Pending)


A new high school is critical for our students and beneficial to the long term health of our community.

— Mr. Mark Sebring

The community presence within Owatonna, regarding the project, is almost unheard of in other communities, and the board believes they are fortunate to have their support. Mr. Elstad said, “The business community has spoken to say the time is now to build a new high school and put our facilities in a good position for at least the next 25-30 years.”


One approach the board is making to help pass this bond involves telling the story behind the current building. Mr. Sebring said, “A new high school is critical for our students and beneficial to the long term health of our community.” The board is keeping the community informed on the money they will have to continue putting into the current high school at this time. The goal is to continue addressing the issues with the current building so the community could see the benefits for students with a new building. Not only will this bond help the Owatonna school district, but rather the community as a whole. The benefits for the business community participating can be seen through the potential value it can bring to their businesses by the donations they make.

At this time the Owatonna Senior High school will be hosting school tours in the weeks leading up to May 14. The tours are open to the public and will be held every half hour between 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. near the auditorium doors.

Update: This story has been changed to include the Wenger Foundation as the corporate partner and to hyperlink the Wenger Corporation press release.