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Tower Rock Elementary school in Prairie du Sac has received a grant up to $500,000 for to support after school activities for students.

The official name of the grant is the 21st Century Community Learning Center Grant.

“(It’s) unbelievable how competitive this grant is,” said Superintendent Cliff Thompson at the May 13 Sauk Prairie School Board meeting.

Tower Rock Principal Kelly Petrowski said the school is “anticipating that we will be funded at $100,000 next year.”

According to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, the grant awards funds for five consecutive years, “contingent upon satisfactory progress toward goals… a comprehensive end-of-year report, including data on student progress in core academic areas (which) is collected from each grantee annually.”

Petrowski said receiving the funds for all five years would amount to $500,000 for the school.

With the grant funds, the school will be “extending and enriching the school day,” Petrowski said. “Mentor ship is a big part of it, leadership is a part of it, outdoor learning.”

The school plans to hire a director to handle new activities in the future.

Petrowski said in hindsight, the polar vortex over the winter proved useful in that it gave school officials six more days to work on the grant. “So many people worked hard on it,” Petrowski said.

Potential Facility Upgrades

In a presentation addressing the school district’s facility needs beyond 2020, Assistant Superintendent Jeff Wright, Community Education and Recreation Director John Lehan, Athletic Director Josh Boyer and High School Principal Chad Harnisch unveiled a plan to “modernize the high school to need the needs for the next 30-50 years (with) updated community and school recreation and athletic facilities.”

Under the new plan, the school stadium would be shifted closer to the middle school and allow an expansion of new facilities in the northern area it currently occupies. A new aquatic facility on the northwest end of the school would also be constructed with a competitive pool and a recreational pool.

The plans include safety improvements for the school such as a fire control system, building zoning capability, improved traffic flow, controlled access for shipping and receiving, air quality enhancements and separating community and student use during the day.

The athletic fields, which are used for a host of activities ranging from sports to marching bands, are currently overused according to the presentation. The recommended rate of use is 70 events per field per year. The Sauk Prairie School District’s fields are currently seeing 191 events per field per year.

Overusing fields can lead to maintenance issues.

The district has looked to Edgewood, Aswaubenon and Superior High Schools when drafting the plan. Superior uses field turf for baseball and softball diamonds, which can simplify maintenance.

“We’re pretty early in the pricing in these different options,” Wright said. He anticipates a mixed-funding solution through finding sponsors and holding referendums.

To help gauge the priorities of the community, the district turned to School Perceptions. The Slinger-based educational research firm collects data through community surveys and uses those data to help school districts make strategic decisions.

“I probably attend 100 school board meetings a year,” said School Perceptions CEO Bill Foster. “My job is to say ‘here is what your community wants.’”

Foster said community engagement is more likely to support the plan if they understand it and have a voice in it.

School Perceptions does not do random stratified sampling, the traditional survey method.

“The problem is, it’s very difficult to call people these days,” Foster said. “I know on my cell phone, if I don’t recognize the number, I don’t pick it up.”

Instead, surveys are mailed to every household in the district and can be taken online. The surveys include a unique code so they can only be taken once.

“The data is very very predictive,” Foster said.

The goal, Foster said, is the find the level of “tax tolerance” in a community: the maximum sum a majority of the community are willing to pay for a project.

“You keep going until you have a majority or more than 50% of folks supporting it,” Foster said. “The data is very predictive if you do it. I think it’s very very good from a board perspective. Because if you have that information you can move forward with confidence.”

Surveys could be sent out as soon as September.

You can reach Jake Ekdahl on Twitter @JakeaEkdahl or contact him at 608-697-6353

Reporter

Juneau County Star-Times reporter

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