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School Board approves building construction

In an effort to deal with space issues at all three of its buildings, the Somerset Board of Education has decided to construct a new building on the school campus.

The new building will house the school district's administrative offices and the junior kindergarten and early childhood classrooms. There is also a possibility that space will be included in the new building for the alternative education program and a virtual education program.

The school board came to the decision at its Dec. 21 meeting. The board moved quickly in hopes of having the structure ready for the start of the 2010-11 school year.

No referendum

There will be no referendum for the new building and the school district will not be borrowing any money to pay for the project. The money will be taken from the district's fund balance.

The plans for the building are just starting. One of the few concrete decisions made by the board was to keep the cost of the building at less than $1 million. District Administrator Randy Rosburg said the district voters said through recent referenda votes that they didn't want any new debt. By taking the money out of the fund balance, the district does not need to borrow any funds for this project.

The location for the building on campus has not yet been decided. The board did hire Kraus Anderson Construction Company as construction manager for the project. Kraus Anderson has hired Seymour Davis Seymour to serve as the architect. SDS has been the architect for the past several building projects at the school district.

Building specs

The discussion about the building idea got animated at times because board members felt they were being rushed into a decision. Board members Catherine Cranston and Marie Colbeth both expressed surprise at the start of the conversation that the discussion had gotten to this point this quickly.

After discussions lasting more than an hour, the board voted unanimously to go along with the concept.

The board had asked for pricing specs for building spaces of 4,000, 6,000 and 8,000-square-feet from four vendors. Three vendors came back with prices on buildings that were similar to the construction of the current buildings. Derrick Construction of New Richmond came in with a bid for metal sided buildings. Their prices were considerably lower and gave the board proof that a building could be done in their price range.

"It won't be built like this building," Rosburg said, referring to Somerset High School. "But it won't be a pole barn either."

John Huenink of Kraus Anderson agreed.

"It's not going to match your masonry brick. It won't match your campus, but we can do it," he said.

Board president Tim Witzmann said this isn't a long-term solution for the district, but it will alleviate the short-term overcrowding.

Kraus Anderson was instructed to design two plans for the new building. One plan is for the administrative offices, junior kindergarten and early childhood classrooms. The second design would also include space for the alternative ed class. Rosburg said there is a hope that the district could eventually offer three sections of the four-hour alternative ed program each day, instead of the one section currently offered.

What changes?

The new building would provide space relief at all three buildings. The main need was at the elementary school. By moving the two junior kindergarten classrooms and the early childhood class to the new building, it will free up three elementary class spaces.

One of the areas that has been growing most rapidly in the school district, and around the state, is the space required for special education. Director of Pupil Services Darren Kern reported between 2002 and 2009, Wisconsin has seen a 46 percent increase in the number of autistic children diagnosed. Somerset's numbers are similar, at 45 percent.

The current administrative offices will become a space for special education. Rosburg said he expects Kern's office to be moved from the middle school to this space and the cognitively disabled students could also move from the middle school to the administrative offices. The overflowing special education classes at the high school will also use this space, while also retaining much of their current space.

By moving Kern's office and the CD class, it would free up some space in the middle school.

Ground work

The board had spent time over the past two months explorating a number of other options including renting portable classrooms, adding on to the current buildings and renting or purchasing space in the community.

The idea to purchase a building in the community was explored deeply. Local Realtor David Bracht did a search for the school district to find suitable space. The best option for the district was the Collova Builders structure.

There were two issues that worked against that idea. The first was the distance away from the rest of the school district that this structure is. The second was ownership of the building. Bracht said the building is under control of Anchor Bank, which didn't want to rent out the structure. Bracht said the bank did not seem interested in moving quickly on a sale either, while the board had a strict time line to follow.

Dave Newman
Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.
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