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Williams Bay discusses elementary school addition to high school

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Andrea Anderson
May 15, 2014

WILLIAMS BAY—The Williams Bay School District is one step closer to formulating a November referendum question that could determine whether the district will move elementary school students to an addition that would be built and connected to the existing junior and senior high.

At a Williams Bay School Board meeting Wednesday, the board decided that the addition could be about 95,700 square feet, include a new 15,000-square-foot gym, a multipurpose area, cost no more than $19.9 million, and still have space for future student population growth.

“You know there is no fat in it, and we're being realistic,” said Barbara Isaacson, Williams Bay Elementary School principal.

Discussion about adding an elementary school to the junior and senior high began during the 2012-2013 school year. Consideration about how to fix existing problems with the elementary school began several years before that, said District Administrator Wayne Anderson.

The reason for a new elementary school for pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, isn't due to a lack of space. It's because of an aging building that will cost more to repair or remodel than it's worth, Anderson said.

The existing Williams Bay Elementary School, 139 Congress St., was built in 1916 and was home to all grades in the district. The building has since been expanded six times to accommodate growth.

With each addition came new nooks, crannies and obstacles.

The building's concrete structure blocks WiFi signals in some classrooms, an original boiler is used but has been upgraded several times through the years, some class windows are irreparable, and the cost of upgrading several systems isn't cost-effective, Anderson said.

A 2010 survey estimated that upgrading the school's plumbing, electrical, and other mechanical systems would cost about $8.5 million, Anderson said.

The district reworked those numbers and found the upgrade would cost between $10 million and $14 million in 2014.

“You have a brand new structure that's going to be more energy efficient, and it's going to be more flexible to allow for different styles of teaching,” Anderson said comparing new versus old.

The board stressed these are preliminary plans and will discuss this most recent proposal with an advisory group in two weeks. The advisory group is made up of residents who have worked with the board since the discussion began.

The pricetag is based on a bid the board looked at Wednesday for a Wisconsin school of similar size.

At the advisory meeting, specific board members and the group will discuss if the plan is realistic to bring to the public.

Preliminary plans show the addition would attach to the northwest side of the high school, 500 W. Geneva St. It would have sections that are two stories tall. The existing elementary school is primarily one story, with a few parts being two stories.

The elementary school would have its own:

—secure entrances and exits

—student drop off

—cafeteria

—gym

—library

—art and vocal music classrooms

—playground

If the plan does go to a vote and the referendum is passed in November, all district students would be in one location. The two schools would share a kitchen and instrumental music classroom.

Where the proposed new gym will go and if it will be for junior and senior high school or elementary school students has not been determined.

The district serves students from more than five municipalities.

There are 338 elementary school students, Anderson said, and the current building is about 85,000-square-feet.

The 95,700-square-foot addition would be built to allow for growth and would have a student capacity of 440.

Kindergarten through fifth grade would have three classrooms. Pre-kindergarten would have two. The existing grade school averages two or three classrooms per grade, Anderson said.

More than 500 district residents completed a survey sent out by the advisory group in fall 2013 to gauge the public's opinion on a new facility. Seventy-three percent of all residents said it's important for the district to address issues facing the existing elementary school, according to results.

In the same survey, 76 percent of resident parents said they would likely support a project cost of about $20 million. Of residents who are not parents, 25 percent said they would likely support a project cost of about $20 million.

Because of Wednesday's cost and square footage recalculation, the tax increase was not immediately available. A previous plan with a $18.5 million pricetag, but no gym and other amenities requested in the survey, showed Williams Bay School District residents would pay an additional $1.15 per $1,000 of equalized assessed value.

If the referendum passes, work on the addition could begin as early as summer 2015 and be completed in about 18 months, Anderson said.

The district plans to sell the existing elementary school once the new one is built. If it does not sell within six months, the district will tear it down and sell it as a lot.

“Our hope is to build a building that allows us to do the things we've always done and that will allow us to do in the future,” said Rebecca Boggs, school board member.



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