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FTF details four building options

Residents of the St. Croix Central School District should expect to receive a phone call survey concerning the SCC Facilities Task Force’s (FTF) possible solutions to address space and programing needs at all three district buildings beginning the week of May 19, according to school district Superintendent Tim Widiker.

The FTF approved hiring the Morris Leatherman Company to conduct the survey at its third public hearing Tuesday, April 29. The survey will be a random sample of 400 people who represent the voting demographics of the district. Residents will be asked 25-30 questions in order to measure support of expansion options and tax tolerance. The results of the phone surveys will be available at the June 9 FTF meeting.

The committee also reviewed four options based on enrollment, capacity and expansion possibilities presented by Vaughn Dierks of Wold Architects. Based on the input from the last meeting, Dierks found that the elementary school in Roberts is currently over capacity, the high school in Hammond has room for long-term growth and the middle school in Hammond is the least flexible building for expansion.

Cost estimates for the four options should be available at the May 12 FTF meeting, Widiker said.

Building options

Option A: Option A includes moving the eighth grade to the high school; housing grades 4-7 at the middle school; making the elementary school Kindergarten-grade 3; and possibly adding a 4K addition to the elementary school. This is the least expensive option.

Pros of this option, according to discussion among committee members, include the least number of added classrooms needed; better programing for eighth-graders; and reducing the student numbers at the elementary school.

Cons were access and parking issues at the high school due to adding the eighth grade; grades 4-7 is an awkward grouping at the middle school; and losing kids from Roberts to Hammond.

Option B: Option B moves seventh and eighth grades to the high school; puts grades 4-6 at the middle school; and houses 4K-third grade at the elementary school.

According to the committee discussion, the pros of Option B are adding middle school-aged programs; the high school is the easiest school to add onto; and this is a better grade grouping than in Option A.

Cons brought up in discussion were creating limitations at the high school site with parking and land borders; and green space limitation for fourth graders. This is the third least expensive option.

Option C Option C involves building a new elementary school building for 4K-second grade; housing grades 3-5 in the current elementary building, grades 6-8 in the current middle school and grades 9-12 in the current high school.

This is the best solution long-term financially and a better space option, but the most difficult for voters to accept. It would also involve more grade transitioning and add extra operating costs that go with a new building. It’s the most expensive option.

Widiker said the cost estimate for a new elementary building would be roughly $15 million.

If chosen, the building could go south or east of the current elementary school.

“The feedback from the committee has been that if we were to build something new, it should be in Roberts,” Widiker said.

Option D: Option D builds additions at all three schools, keeps the existing grade configuration and possibly allows for a 4K addition.

The committee felt this option is the most favorable because it provides equality for both communities, adds a possible “gymnatorium” at the elementary school, is the least disruptive, doesn’t change the grade structure and is the easiest for voters to accept.

“I want to acknowledge that it (changing grade configurations) is one of the most polarizing discussion points in any community,” Widiker said. “The committee thus far is recognizing that keeping the current grade configurations in Option D is the least volatile choice.”

Cons included changing the bus loop configurations, limiting room for future growth and creating a large elementary school building. This is the second least expensive option.

Widiker said the committee like Options D and A the most, but no options have yet been eliminated.

Items to consider

After much discussion, most members preferred avoiding changing grade configurations, even though it would be a one-time change the first year.

Including 4K in the elementary school brought mixed reactions. Advantages include less staff turnover, better curriculum continuity, reducing the number of sites for pickup and adding 4K doesn’t impact the common areas of the school. The annual operating cost of adding 4K into the building would only be about $13,000, according to the meeting minutes. The question will be addressed in the community survey.

Widiker listed these items to be addressed in further brainstorming sessions:

Elementary school Parking and pick up space needs; gymnasium space; special education needs, including space for collaboration and intervention.

Middle school Expanding the parking lot; a secure entrance; turning the multipurpose room into a gymnasium if an auditorium is built; the STEM programming needs; air conditioning; and additional space for special education.

High school A secure entrance; an additional gymnasium; adding a 500-seat auditorium; expanding or remodeling the music suite; STEM programming needs; moving counseling areas to the main office; making the cardio/strength training room accessible to the community; adding more athletic/physical education locker rooms; adding a larger wrestling room; expanding the ag/tech ed/shop areas; additional space for the special education program; addition of classrooms; parking lot maintenance; and air conditioning.

Widiker also brought up the bus garage, which currently doesn’t have enough room to maintain and store vehicles. Many of the vehicles are stored outside. Currently 14 buses run 11 routes. The district has 14 buses, two special education buses and five vans.

The next FTF meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on Monday, May 12, at the high school, following a tour to begin at 5:30 p.m.

“Discussions are productive,” Widiker said. “We want to focus more on the programming needs at the next meeting. We have mainly talked about capacity needs and want to focus on programming more. In order to decide on options, we need more information about where we want to go with programming. How we want to educate students is paramount to what type of facility we want to educate them.”

Sarah Nigbor

Sarah J. Nigbor serves as a regional editor for RiverTown Multimedia, a position she began in April 2017. She joined RiverTown Multimedia in October 2013 as a news reporter for the New Richmond News, before being appointed editor of the Pierce County Herald in Febraury 2015. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Spanish and French in 2001. She completed a minor in journalism in 2004. 

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