Reedsburg residents will vote Oct. 10 on a $32 million schools referendum.
In February 2016, the school district received an analysis and report from Plunkeet Raysich Architects and then sent survey sent to Reedsburg school district residents in March 2016 on the current conditions of the school district’s facilities. Through both results, the district pieced together what updates it believed were the most important to its students, staff and community members.
“We’ve done a good job of identifying both internally and through this facility study,” said Tom Benson, district administrator. “We’ve identified a clear set of needs and we’re trying to address them at a financial standpoint. The tax impact is very minimal. So we are able to modernize our facilities, present a much safer and more secure environment and discontinue the use of an inefficient and ineffective school building.”
Should the referendum pass, the district has several plans to update many facilities within the school district from a $7.6 million improvements for security and building infrastructures improvements as well $24.3 million to construct a new elementary school and transportation facility.
The school district is looking to modernize entryways in all of the buildings within the school district, that Benson said might “come in a variety of ways” like additional cameras at all of its buildings and moving office complexes closer to the main entryways.
“We want to make certain we do the kinds of things that provide a safe and secure environment for students, staff and visitors,” Benson said. “We believe our current condition is reasonably safe and reasonably secure but making some modifications some renovations will further insure we do in fact have a safe and secure environment.”
With Reedsburg Area High School and Webb Middle School having offices already adjacent to the entryway, Benson said the improvements may be reconfigured to the entrance of the buildings.
“So for example, if you’re visiting one of our schools you can easily come through the first set of doors but you’re not going anywhere because you’re going to come through another set of locked doors that you’re going to have to get permission to come through,” Benson said. “You’re going to hit a buzzer or that kind of a thing which is pretty standard these days.”
Another way the school district plans to modernize its buildings is to move the main offices or main entryways closer to each other. Benson said elementary schools such as Ironton-LaValle and Loganville Elementary Schools currently have main offices which are far away from each other.
New elementary school
Benson said the school district is looking to create a more modern teaching and learning atmosphere for its students.
“We would like to have classrooms that are a little bit larger to accommodate the more active hands-on learning kinds of experience that could be present at a school building if the environment were to support that,” he said.
If the referendum passes, the district plans to construct a new elementary school at a new location and close South Elementary School. Benson said renovations to South Elementary would cost around $6-7 million and would be “cost-prohibitive” not only because of the costs to renovate the school but because the 80-year-old building more than likely won’t serve the community on an educational basis like the rest of the facilities in the school district.
“Some of the things that are present at South are a multi floor complex with no elevator so accessibility to the facility is problematic,” Benson said. “Much of the heating system, electrical system is a little antiquated … it isn’t a modern school building.”
South Elementary School creates what Benson called an “emotional connection” to the community because of its history and the number of students who attended the school during their youth. Located in downtown Reedsburg, Benson said the community still utilizes the elementary school for reasons other than providing education.
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“There’s a wonderful gymnasium in that building,” Benson said. “Our families enjoy utilizing that. Our city recreation programs utilize that.”
Benson said he has some buyers looking to purchase South Elementary to serve the community in another way.
“We’re excited about the prospect of someone else owning that building and being able to utilize it well into the future,” Benson said. “There are a variety of opportunities to become a part of our community through that building if it’s no longer utilized as a school.”
Transportation facility, building infrastructure updates
Besides providing a modern elementary school, the school district plans to construct a modern transportation facility to provide proper repair for school vehicles.
“We feel like we’re doing an okay job on the maintenance side of things but if we can wash them more regularly-get the road salt off them more for example on a more regular basis-then were going to avoid some of the things that cause our buses to fall into disrepair to quickly,” Benson said.
The six Reedsburg school buildings will have maintenance and repairs provided.
For every $100,000 of property value, the estimated property tax impact will be $4 a year. If the referendum passes, Benson said Reedsburg’s tax levy will likely remain neutral because the school district has paid off a previous referendum to build the Reedsburg Area High School in the late 1990s.
“Because we are done paying for that, our tax levy would go down so if we just keep it at the same level we have the opportunity to do all of these other things,” Benson said. “We can build a new school and take care of safety and security and we can address some of these infrastructure kinds of things and keep our tax levy pretty neutral.”
Benson said the reaction from the community has been extremely positive with the plan the district has put together.
“(The residents) expect us to take care of our buildings, expect us to present schools that support strong educational practices and they very, very clearly demonstrated a willingness to maintain the current level of taxing so all of these things can be addressed,” Benson said. “We’re doing the things they said they want us to do.”
Benson said the school district has held several public meetings and met with many civic groups in the Reedsburg area to present its plan for referendum. The plan has been through many different mediums from its website, videos and direct mail.
Benson said absentee ballot voting has already begun and is available until Oct. 6. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Oct. 10 throughout the districts 12 polling locations. Benson encourages residents to continue to ask questions.
“We wanted to make sure we provided as much information as we could leading up to this time,” Benson said. “We just want to make ourselves available now during these last days to answer questions that may come along.”