Questions abound at GFW referendum presentation

Staff photo by Fritz Busch Gibbon Fairfax Winthrop (GFW) Superintendent Tami Martin presents fall referendum project information at a public meeting in the high school auditorium Wednesday night.

WINTHROP — Many questions were fielded at a Gibbon Fairfax Winthrop (GFW) Public Schools referendum presentation in the high school auditorium Wednesday night.

A Nov. 7 vote includes $37,981,854 in 20-year bonds to improve sites in Gibbon, Fairfax and Winthrop, $2,000,261 inlong-term facilitities maintenance funding, plus a second question of spending another $1,572,816 for new high school construction.

Superintendent Tami Martin said the school district did not have a facilities committee when she came to the school district in 2013. Since then, a task force was chosen including herself and three school principals and department heads which she said did not cast votes.

“We wanted only people with skin in the game to vote,” Martin said.

The committee considered and put aside a plan to close the Gibbon school and improve Fairfax and Winthrop schools at a cost of $51 million. A three-school plan with grades 3-6 at Winthrop and 7-12 at Fairfax estimated to cost $45.7 million was also discarded.

“Almost 37 percent of our student population has a Winthrop address,” Martin said. “At about $9,000 revenue per student, we could lose $2.7 million in student funding each year if all of those students left the district, many of which would go to Sibley East Public Schools. We would also need to determine the cost of improving the Fairfax football field and track.”

A number of Fairfax farmers at the meeting favored the 7-12 plan in Fairfax instead of the current 3-6 plan in Fairfax and 7-12 in Winthrop.

A man said the school district could save $10 million by moving grades 7-12 to Fairfax, where he felt there was enough land available to add to the school. With the Winthrop 7-12 option, land would have to be purchased and $17,428,680 is earmarked for new construction, according to the presentation.

Martin said the task force considered a one-school option that would cost about $53 million plus land costs.

Other people questioned the referendum project itself. One person said most all students have iPhones and Smartphones, so why spend money improving libraries.

Another person questioned the value of brick and mortar schools years into the future.

Several people questioned housing a daycare program at the Gibbon school.

Martin said parents using the daycare facility would pay fees to cover costs.

“Why don’t people raise their small children at home instead of sending them to a daycare center,” a woman asked.

Applause followed and the woman, who said she was a 1960 Winthrop High School graduate, bowed.

Martin said the referendum is a solid plan for all GFW students. She said creating a 7-12 school would enable seventh and eighth-graders to get a more robust education with greater engagement by being able to utilize teachers with broader educational licenses than they would in a middle school format.

Martin said the school district will consider a scaled down 10-year facility improvement plan if the Nov. 7 referendum vote fails.

Another GFW bond proposal presentation begins in the Gibbon school gym at 6 p.m., Monday, Sept. 25, just prior to the GFW school board meeting.

Fritz Busch can be emailed at


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