Athletic Complex Improvements

Back in 2005, the Garretson School District put in one of the premier small school athletic complexes in the state.  That facility has served us well, as a point of community pride as we host people from other schools in football, soccer and track.  The normal life expectancy of a synthetic turf field and track is normally in the 10-12 year range.  This year our facility saw its seventeenth year of use.  Over the last few years, the facility has begun to show its age.  Over the last year, we have been working on plans to replace the turf and track, update the scoreboard and replace concrete that has broken over time.  We also intend to install a sidewalk and permanent visitors’ bleachers on the east side of the field.  

We have been working with Infrastructure Design Group to create the plans for the refresh.  One challenge that our athletic turf presents is that of drainage.  The drainage system that was installed back in 2005 is a Brock underlayment system.  Engineers have found that this type of system is more appropriate for warmer climates than the upper midwest freeze / thaw cycle that we experience in SD.  A different system will be required in order to replace the synthetic turf, requiring us to remove about a foot and a half of substrate from the field and then using a tile drainage system along with fill that is not susceptible to movement in the freeze/thaw cycle.  

Our plan is to go out for bids for the project in January, with the hope that we will be able to start the construction in April to be ready for next fall.  We will finance the project through our capital outlay fund, using a combination of spending down the reserve in that fund and capital outlay certificates.  After the bids come in, the board will need to determine how much we spend out of our Capital Outlay reserve and how much to finance through certificates.  

We are excited to make the improvements to the complex.  That facility is one of the best in our conference and in our class, something for our community to be proud of.  This refresh will ensure that it continues to be a great place to play football and soccer as well as host track meets and other community events.

Garretson School District Awarded $1.185 Million Dollars!

The Garretson School District has been notified that we are one of only a few school districts in the State of South Dakota to be selected as the recipient of a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency for the purchase of up to three electric school busses and the associated charging infrastructure.  Business Manager Jacob Schweitzer had the idea for writing the grant and its potential positive impact on the district.  

We have much to learn in a short time about electric school busses before we make a recommendation for the purchase of one of these busses.  At this point, we believe we will likely take advantage of the program to purchase two electric school busses, which would allow us to keep two spare diesel powered busses in the fleet for use as needed.  

Electric school busses typically have a maximum range of between 120 and 130 miles.  One of our concerns is that with the harsh South Dakota winters, we know that the range of the electric busses will be reduced.  We will need to determine how much the range decreases to see if they are appropriate for use on those very cold South Dakota days in January and February.  If we determine that those busses are not appropriate in extreme cold, we plan to use those spare busses on those days to ensure that all of our students get to school safely.  

We are excited to be on the front end of this potential change.  The district should see substantial savings in the operational costs using these busses.  A typical diesel school bus gets between 6 and 7 miles per gallon.  The equivalent use of electric vehicles (based on cost of fuel) is approximately 24 mpg.  The costs of maintenance *(think oil changes) is also significantly reduced.  Stay tuned for more news as we move forward with the project!

To the Constituents of the Garretson School District,

In 2016, our community supported the school district by affirming the school board’s resolution to opt-out in an election.  At that time, over 50% of the registered voters in the district participated.  Throughout the process, the district communicated that we believe the voice of the community is critical in an opt-out and made two promises to the community.  First, that the district would only request enough tax revenue to maintain programming in the district, and second, that if the opt-out needed to be extended, the people in the community would have a chance to vote on whether to continue the opt-out or let it expire.  

At the March 2021 school board meeting, the board adopted a resolution that included the provision for an election to take place on May 11, 2021.  The legal process for an opt-out does not require the board to hold an election, but it was important to the board and administration that the election be included in the resolution to ensure that the voice of the community would be heard again, giving every voter in the district the chance to participate.  We followed the protocol for an opt-out election, including posting notices in the district’s official newspaper, the Garretson Gazette.  Two notices of the opt-out resolution were published on two separate occasions, and election / voter registration notices were also published twice as required by law.  

Our goal all along has been to be transparent with the public and to answer any and all questions that our constituents had with respect to the district’s finances.  We advertised and held a public meeting in our gymnasium that was also broadcast on the Alliance cable channel 230.  For those who missed it, we also uploaded the video to YouTube and shared the links on our social media and website.  We visited with civic groups and offered to come meet with any group that wanted us to come speak with them privately.  All questions, whether asked at the public meeting, civic group meetings, or privately via email or phone call, were answered with honesty, openness and integrity.

On May 11, we were excited to hold the election at the American Legion in Garretson.  Three hundred fifty-seven people cast their votes.  Throughout the day, the ballot box remained secure, with a padlock holding it shut.  The school’s business manager, Jacob Schweitzer, presided over the election, and remained present until the conclusion of the day.  Ruth Sarar and Rhonda Kirton helped him at different times throughout the day.  At the conclusion of the election, John Brinkman and Mr. Schweitzer counted the ballots in the American Legion hall four times as Ms. Sarar watched the process.  At that time, the “yes” votes outnumbered the “no” votes 179 to 178, a margin of only one.

We feel very confident in the integrity of the people who played a role in the election and the community members who helped us with it.  In hindsight, we made some procedural missteps in the election that are inconsistent with the requirements of the law.  First, we did not have a three-person election board at the election from 7AM to 7PM.  Second, we did not have the proper ballot stamp, and third, we did not follow the proper procedure for the use of provisional ballots.  Provisional ballots are used in the instance where the information in the voter registry does not match the information on the driver’s license.  For instance, provisional ballots are frequently used when a voter has recently moved within the district, so their address may not match what is in the registry.  Our intent for the election was to provide a vehicle for the community to speak through their vote. These procedural errors have given reason to create doubt for some in the community and that is the last thing we want, especially with a margin this close. We want people to have confidence in the integrity of the process, and we did not help with that as we performed our first election with our current team.

Considering the totality of the circumstances, the board has exercised its reasoned judgment and chosen not to complete the canvass of the election results.  Further, it has asked the administration to direct the school district’s attorney to seek appropriate judicial relief.  This effort will enable the school district to address the procedural irregularities of the last election and place the school district in a position to once again submit the question of an opt-out to the voters.  Our intent is to come back to the community at a later date with another election, as an opt-out is necessary for the school district to remain financially stable.  

We want our community to know that we have the best interest of every student and the best interest of the community in mind as we move forward.  We believe that integrity is important: in the schoolhouse, in the election process and most of all, personally, for each of us.  While we may make mistakes, we intend to operate as openly as possible with our public, acknowledge the mistake and then figure out the best procedure to move forward.  We believe that in light of the situation, this is the best course of action for the district and the community.  We thank you for your continued understanding and support as we move forward.


The Garretson School Board and Administration

Shannon Nordstrom, Board President

Kari Flanagan, Board Vice President

Rachel Hanish, Board Member

Tony Martens, Board Member

Ruth Sarar, Board Member

Guy Johnson, Superintendent

Jacob Schweitzer, Business Manager