An engaged public crucial to support of $39.9 million school plan
With the second vote in as many years on a Grafton School District referendum fast approaching, Supt. Jeff Nelson said on March 15 that he believes residents are more engaged in discussions about needed school improvements and better informed about the district’s $39.9 million plan to address those needs than they were a year ago.
“The district learned from some of the things that didn’t go well last time and also some of the things that did go well. We’ve tried to continue the things that did go well and we tried to not do the things that didn’t go well,” Nelson said. “We are seeing more people engaged and asking questions at our listening sessions. I think all of those pieces are encouraging.”
Voters will decide the fate of the $39.9 million facility improvement plan on Tuesday, April 4, a year after they rejected a $47.7 million facility improvement referendum and a $1.8 million plan to upgrade outdoor athletic and recreation facilities. The district has since dropped outdoor athletic facility improvements from the referendum and cut about $7.8 million from the school improvement plan.
If the referendum passes, Grafton Elementary School would be demolished due to structural issues caused by the foundation settling. According to a Sigma Group study, fixing the school would cost about as much as replacing it.
Kennedy Elementary School and Woodview Elementary School would be expanded to accommodate the additional students.
The closing of Grafton Elementary School would result in the elimination of a principal position, providing a long-term cost savings to the district.
At Kennedy Elementary School, a two-story addition would be constructed to provide more space for fourth and fifth grades.
New classrooms and a new gymnasium with a full-size court and seating for 150 people would be built.
The kitchen would be remodeled and classrooms updated with new technology.
A new security system would also be installed.
The total cost of the Kennedy Elementary School projects would be $9 million.
At Woodview Elementary School, eight classrooms would be added. The early childhood and kindergarten spaces would also be renovated, along with the addition of a third kindergarten classroom.
A new gymnasium would also be constructed with seating for 150 people. The school’s kitchen would be remodeled and expanded.
The cost for the project would total $8 million.
Additional work for both elementary schools would include painting, replacing ceiling tiles and improving the heating and ventilation systems.
At Grafton High School, science facilities that have not been updated in more than 45 years would be renovated to provide modern classrooms and labs. With the removal of Grafton Elementary School’s gym, a gym with seating for 250 people would be added to the high school.
The training room would be remodeled, the locker rooms renovated and new family locker rooms added.
The music facilities would be updated and the career and technical education spaces, including the auto lab, would be expanded.
The cost of the high school would be $17.5 million.
Infrastructure improvements would be made at John Long Middle School.
The referendum also includes funds to improve handicap accessibility at the schools.
Athletic field improvements are not included in the referendum and will be considered at a later date.
Traffic flow will be addressed at all of the schools. The district has contracted with Kapur and Associates to conduct a traffic study to find ways to separate buses from parents picking up their children.
The $39.9 million cost would result in a projected tax rate increase of $66 per $100,000 of property value. That means the owner of a house valued at $200,000 would pay an additional $132 in school property taxes.
The expected completion date for the project is December of 2018.
“Through the listening sessions we heard that the cost and value are extremely important. We learned the number needed to be lower and the value needed to be equally important. This plan accomplishes that,” Grafton School Board member Paul Lorge said.
Image Information: AN APRIL 4 referendum will determine if the Grafton School District should spend $39.9 million to improve facilities. A rendering shows the proposed media center at Grafton High School.