Addressing the middle school referendum

by John Mauer SF School Board President

The Sheboygan Falls School Board would like to thank the community and the School District of Sheboygan Falls staff for their continued engagement and valuable feedback provided at the Facilities Planning Community Workshops held in December.

Following a failed referendum in April 2013, nine months of investigation and feedback from over 1,300 residents, who advised the School Board through a community-wide survey, we have finalized a revised and reduced facilities plan.

The board recently approved two separate questions that will give our community a choice as they determine the most appropriate plan and level of financial support to address our middle school needs in the April 2014 referendum.

This letter is the first in a series that we hope will clarify information and answer key referendum questions.

We invite all community members to contact a School Board member with your questions too.

You can email us specific questions at referendum@sheboyganfalls. or stop by to meet with one of us in person at the middle school library from 6:30- 7:30 p.m. every Thursday, starting Feb. 6 and running through March 27.

First, we will address the proposed referendum plan.

Unlike the April 2013 referendum, this revised, reduced referendum will include two separate questions - a base plan and an independent auditorium project.

Each question must be voted on independently.

The base plan, for a not-toexceed cost of $27.6 million includes:

• Construction of a new middle school on district-owned land directly behind the elementary school;

• Demolition of the current 1928 middle school and repurposing the site for a multi-use community school athletic field;

• Reduction of the 4-year-old kindergarten classroom addition to the elementary school and increased partnerships with the Sheboygan YMCA;

• Comprehensive reductions for district-wide capital maintenance projects;

• Elimination of safety and security projects and land purchase from the referendum.

The independent auditorium project, for a not-to-exceed cost of $2.6 million would allow our community to vote on a 450-seat, sloped-floor auditorium addition to the new middle school.

The board chose to remove the auditorium from the base plan in response to community feedback to reduce overall costs and allow choice for affordable solutions.

I want to confirm with the community that the board decision to offer an independent auditorium option is not a reflection on our support for maintaining a strong arts education program in Sheboygan Falls.

We are committed to the arts and believe the auditorium addition would bring significant value to our students, staff and community.

We understand some members of the community continue to ask why we are proposing to build a new middle school instead of repairing, renovating and adding on to the current middle school.

The board reviewed this option extensively and thoughtfully following a comprehensive investigation of costs to repair and replace failing building systems, infrastructure and renovations to outdated learning spaces.

Renovations at this level would have likely required moving students to alternate locations during construction, which would significantly impact students and staff for several years.

We also considered addressing the congested, unsafe traffic pattern through potential acquisition of homes adjacent to the property, but this added substantial cost to the project and directly impacted the neighborhood.

The fact is, this isn’t about simply “fixing what’s broke” in a building originally designed and built eight decades ago on a four-acre neighborhood site.

Repair and renovation costs to transform the existing school into a “like-new” building were estimated in 2012) to be approximately $22 million, nearly the same as building a brand new school on a more appropriatelysized site.

It became clear that options to create adequate classroom learning environments and infrastructure to support our students today, and into the future, would be limited and costly at the existing site.

In summary, the School Board firmly believes that further investment at the middle school for costly repairs and significant renovations required to meet student needs is not a fiscally responsible, long-term solution.

On behalf of the School Board, I encourage all residents to learn more about the April 1, 2014 Referendum, including the base plan and the separate auditorium project.

We invite you to participate in the upcoming school tours and Information Nights and to contact any board member with your questions.

All referendum information is provided on the district website, along with frequently asked questions (FAQ’s), a fact sheet and the preliminary site plans.

In addition, we welcome all local contractors, suppliers and trades to join us for one of two contractor forums being hosted in late February and early March to provide detailed information on the bidding process and how area resources can get involved once the referendum is approved.

Stay tuned for dates and times.

For more information, contact me at jmauer@sheboyganfalls.

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