BD board hears from concerned citizens about school closures

South Beaver Dam Elementary School

The Beaver Dam Unified School District board of education had its final meeting Monday to discuss its five-year facility plan before voting on the fate of South Beaver Dam Elementary School next month.

Currently, the board favors closing South Beaver Dam, which was built in 1959, at the end of the 2019-20 school year. The students there would attend Jefferson Elementary School beginning in the fall of 2020.

A small addition at Jefferson might be necessary to prepare for the additional students, officials have said. As part of the plan, there would be improvements to Washington and Lincoln elementary schools during the spring and summer of 2021 and improvements to Wilson and Prairie View during the spring and summer of 2022.

The elementary school boundaries would be re-evaluated in 2023-24.

In addition, $250,000 would be spent each year for the next five years for summer projects to improve Beaver Dam Middle School.

The Educational Service Center would be closed and the maintenance building for the district would be closed. Both would be turned into green space. A new maintenance shed would be built. There would also be updates to the athletic fields and facilities with additional money going into the district budget for facility needs.

South Beaver Dam Elementary is one of two elementary schools in the district that have only one class for each grade. Wilson, the other school with one grade level, was mentioned before as possibly closing but will remain open under the current plan.

Superintendent Mark DiStefano said although Wilson is safe for now it doesn’t mean that the school will remain open forever.

“Overall the infrastructure of South Beaver Dam is more vulnerable,” DiStefano said. “In order to make Washington work we are talking about spending $1 million or $2 million more than Jefferson, and Washington might be two phases over two years. In a 10-year vision, I’m not saying Wilson will be there, but things may change.”

A facility study concludes that the district needs $12 million for maintenance for its buildings, except Beaver Dam High School, over the coming five years, he said.

Most of the elementary schools in Beaver Dam were built in the 1950s with Prairie View Elementary School being the newest and it is 20 years old.

Director of Business Services Anne-Marie Malkovich brought up some ideas that have been discussed about the benefits of schools with multiple classrooms of one grade in the schools. The points included increase collaboration between teachers, flexibility in planning and groups between teachers, fair distribution of programs and less travel time for shared staff.

Malkovich said there is research that shows that school size has less impact than other factors such as social economic status.

Long term, Beaver Dam Middle School, which will be 100 years old in the next couple of years, may get a major renovation and a new elementary school may also be built, DiStefano said.

School Board member John Kraus Jr. who lives in the area of South Beaver Dam Elementary asked if there would be anything special done to Jefferson.

“When Trenton closed, we put the kids in a newer school,” Kraus said. “We won’t be doing that for the kids of South Beaver Dam with Jefferson.”

About $2.25 million will be spent on the Jefferson Elementary renovation, DiStefano said.

The district will be borrowing the funds needed for the projects as it loses debt from previous building projects in the district without plans to go to referendum for the work over the next few years, DiStefano said.

The school board will vote on the possible changes during its next meeting on July 15 at 6:30 p.m. at the Educational Services Center.

Follow Terri Pederson on Twitter @tlp53916 or contact her at 920-356-6760.

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