10th anniversary of Harkin Grant observed
They had something to celebrate Monday at Armstrong-Ringsted Community School.
Ellen Huntoon, a representative of the Harkin School Grant Program, presented current and past members of the A-R school board with a copy of the Congressional Record commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Harkin School Grant Program. What was particularly significant about the celebration Monday was that it was held in the new addition built with a $1.1-million Harkin Grant that helped leverage voter support for the $2.68-million project. A picture of the former school is still in the board room in the district office in the new addition.
Those participating in Monday’s ceremony included Superintendent Randy Collins, District Secretary Deb Obbink, former board President Greg Bum, former Superintendent Robert Raymer, current board member Don Looft, Huntoon, former board member and current maintenance supervisor Tom Mark, Principal Matt Berninghaus and current board President Rod Foster.
The district received the grant in 2002 and construction was completed 2004. Thanks to the grant, said Raymer, 92 percent of district voters approved the bond issue which added just 72 cents per $1,000 to the school tax levy.
Huntoon, a rural development and agriculture specialist for Harkin’s office, said 79 percent of Iowa high schools need work of some kind. Since the grant’s inception 10 years ago, $121 million has been distributed to 304 of Iowa’s 362 school districts. A total of $4.7 million is available for school grants around Iowa this year, Huntoon said.
“Iowa has one of the best educational systems, as you know, in the country,” Huntoon said. She said Iowa is the only state that has the grant program due to Harkin’s leadership role in education in the U.S. Senate. He serves on the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.
“The glory of the grant was the multiplying factor,” said Raymer. “We had some excellent board members that had confidence that we could get something done. It was unique in that there was a need in the rural areas. It gave the people the confidence to go ahead and vote the bond issue. It was definitely needed here. I think the reason it (bond issue) went through so relatively easy was because of the grant.”
Foster, current board president who was a community member at the time the grant was received and voters approved the bond issue, noted the continuing significance of the new addition to the school.
“We still have a lot of community members take a lot of price in this addition,” Foster said.
The 2004 addition replaces the original 1915 portion of the building. The new building includes a science lab, activity center/gymnasium, 10 classrooms, and district offices.