ST. CLOUD -- An amendment to a plan to lease space for the Tech High School gymnastics team caused a heated debate and divided the school board at their meeting Wednesday night.

The letter of intent is not binding, however, it does outline terms that are acceptable to the possible tenant -- in this case -- District 742. The lease, with the St. Cloud School of Dance, would be $8,760 a month for each "month of occupancy", which will be around seven months a year for a grand total of $61,320 a year.

Before the board voted on the letter of intent, member Bruce Hentges brought forward an amendment to the motion to approve the letter of intent. His amendment would have required the district to commit any contingency funds left over once the new Tech High School is finished, to be used for building a gymnastics space.

"Let me try to amend the motion, to include a commitment by this board, to use any contingency funds that remain once the Tech building project is finished, in support of adding a gymnastics gym, to the new Tech High School."

Hentges' amendment sparked an immediate debate. Board Chair Al Dahlgren took issue with voting on such a commitment lacking a full board (member Jerry Von Korff was not present) and committing a future board to an action they may be unable to support when the time comes.

"I have a real issue with issuing a directive to a future board. I don't think this board has the right to bind a new board, which it will be by the time the construction [of the new Tech High School] is done, to a specific outcome."

Member Bruce Mohs supported Dalghren's stand. Saying since three members, including himself, would not be a part of the board starting in January, they shouldn't make a decision about what to do with the leftover funds.

Hentges responded saying they "make decisions that bind future boards all the time" and added, the next board could change these plans if they wanted to. He said the amended motion would show the community and program the district supports them.

"This shows a direction to the community, shows a direction to the program, to a group of students, where this board intends to go. For the last three years, we've kicked this issue down the road and haven't taken any action on it."

Board Member Monica Segura-Schwartz, who made the original motion to approve the letter of intent, thought it was inappropriate to amend it to include the commitment of contingency funds.

"[We shouldn't make] a decision about contingency money at this moment, tied to the lease agreement we have. They're two separate issues, and should not be tied to the same motion."

The debate on whether the amendment was appropriate or not continued for some time. Finally, Hentges withdrew his amendment, saying he didn't want to cause a roadblock.

The board then voted on the original motion, to pass the letter of intent without the commitment of contingency funds for a new gymnastics space. However, the vote divided the board, with members Hentges, Shannon Haws and Jeff Pollreis voting against the letter of intent without the commitment of unused contingency dollars.

Dahlgren, Mohs and Segura-Schwartz voted in favor of the letter of intent in its original form. The letter of intent will come before the board again, at their September meeting.

The future of the program has come under some distress since the original plans for the new Tech High School did not include a dedicated space for the gymnastics team.

In March, the architect revealed they had updated the designs of the new high school to make it easier for future changes. However, at the cost for a new gym was still estimated at $2-3 million at that time.

In total, over 600 girls are in the gymnastics program, ranging from kindergarten through 12th grade.

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