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The question is, which grades where?

The St. Croix Central School District Facilities Task Force (FTF) held its second public hearing Tuesday, April 22, at the Middle School in Hammond. According to District Superintendent Tim Widiker the meeting was well attended and included several members of the school board.

The evening’s agenda, in addition to continuing discussion of possible solutions to address space and programing needs at all three district buildings, included a half-hour presentation by district financial advisor Brian Brewer of Robert W. Baird & Co. Brewer provided an overview outlining the tax implications of three different borrowing scenarios; $10 million, $15 million and $20 million.

“He (Brewer) showed us where we are at currently with our debt, explaining that in 2016 more debt will be coming off of our books making it a good time to borrow,” Widiker said.

Brewer explained how the district’s history of good decisionmaking has saved money and how its good bond rating will be advantageous in contributing to a good financing rate, should the district decide to move forward with a project.

Vaughn Dierks of Wold Architects expanded on his previous discussion of building capacities by providing drawings of the existing floor plans for each building, including potential layouts for expansion of the elementary and high school floor plans.

Representatives from Miron Construction estimated a cost of $150,000-$200,000 per classroom. By comparison, a modular classroom, minus a bathroom, can cost as much as $110,000.  

Dierks then introduced potential solutions based on reconfiguring grades.

The first possibility involved folding 4K into the elementary building at a rate of adding 60 students per half day, which could potentially stress the common areas.

The next discussion focused on the pros and cons of moving fifth grade back to the elementary building.

The last solution considered the possibility of moving either just the eighth grade or both the seventh and eighth grades to the high school building.

“There are a lot of schools that are 7-12. St. Croix Central used to be 7-12. Programmatically, seventh and eighth grade could benefit a lot, especially from science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education resources in that building. We would no longer need two STEM labs -- one in the middle school and one in the high school. It would also make a lot of sense financially,” Widiker said.

Another potential configuration would locate 4K through third grade at the elementary building, grades four to six at the middle school, and grades seven to 12 at the high school. This solution would require the majority of the new construction to take place only at the high school.

The volume of information shared and the potential for each solution yet to be discussed led the task force to add an additional meeting to the calendar scheduled for 6 p.m., Tuesday, April 29, at the middle school library.

“We would like to have narrowed down the options to three by our May 12 meeting, ahead of the community phone survey scheduled to take place over four to five weeks running into early June. We need to know what the community will support as far as tax impact. What we want and how much we think we can afford work hand in hand,” Widiker said. “We had a lot of great discussion, very productive. So now we are really into the exciting part, the meat and potatoes of why we have so many people involved. This is where their information and opinions are going to be very valuable.”

For updated information and minutes from the meeting, visit the district’s website at