Citizens committee will be formed to review facility studies in preparation for possible referendum in 2016
Residents of the Grafton School District will soon have a chance to provide input into the evaluation of school facilities for a possible referendum in spring 2016.
The School Board on Monday endorsed a plan that calls for the formation of a Citizens Facilities Committee that will meet five to seven times to review facility studies currently being done by a consulting firm.
The plan was recommended by Supt. Mel Lightner, who said the committee should have 30 to 40 residents and begin meeting April 15. He said the group will play a critical role in fine-tuning the district’s priorities as it
assesses buildings and grounds.
“Right now, we’re very divergent,” Lightner said of the preliminary studies, which have included an audit by Hoffman Planning, Design & Construction, an Appleton-based firm hired to conduct evaluations.
“At some point, you have to converge on some solutions. We have to be asking questions and begin dialoguing.”
Lightner said the district will begin recruiting community members to serve as volunteers on the committee. Input from other residents will also be sought through surveys and focus groups “so that the district can
choose the right solutions to the facilities problems,” he said.
Last year, the board agreed to study ways to upgrade aging and deteriorating facilities after receiving reports of widespread problems, including issues with mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, roofs, walls,
windows and doors as well as inadequate technology resources and space limitations.
In response to a 2010 study by Plunkett Raysich Architects, the district identified $21.5 million in needed upgrades.
The board subsequently agreed to spend $2.2 million for the most pressing upgrades, including installing new bleachers for the Grafton High School football and soccer fields and pool, roof work at Woodview Elementary
School and tuck pointing and other repairs at the high school, John Long Middle School and the three elementary schools.
Officials told the board Monday that while the upgrades helped maintain facilities, many other problems remain.
Director of Maintenance Jamie Scofield said the district has spent about $2.8 million since 2012 on improvements, much of it for remodeling. He said many other problems remain, including cracked mortar, brickwork and parking lots, broken and corroded pipes and electrical systems, defective heating and air-conditioning units, and worn carpeting and floor and ceiling tiles.
“I’m very limited with what I can do,” Scofield said.
In a report to the board, Jody Andres of Hoffman Planning said a preliminary assessment of facilities confirmed many of the problems. Besides touring buildings and grounds, the firm and Scofield interviewed staff
members to identify their concerns.
Andres said Grafton Elementary School is in the best shape among district schools, with the middle school “slightly below that,” and the high school, Woodview Elementary and Kennedy Elementary “in the biggest trouble.”
Shared problems at each school, Andres said, include space limitations in classrooms, locker rooms, lobbies and hallways; security concerns; outdated and failing building systems; aging windows and woodwork; unreliable WiFi internet access; and inadequate science and technology facilities.
Andres said the addition of 4-K classes last fall has exacerbated space limitations at all elementary schools. He also cited accessibility problems for disabled students, a shortage of community space in gymnasiums and athletic facilities and serious drainage issues outside Grafton Elementary School.
Andres said his firm will continue to evaluate facilities but noted the preliminary findings already underscore serious concerns that should help the district begin to prioritize its needs.
“Whatever you choose to do, it’s an appropriate time to address these needs and incorporate ideas,” he told the board.
When asked by board member Paul Lorge to grade district school buildings on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being poor and 10 being outstanding, Andres gave Grafton Elementary School and the middle school 7 or 8, followed by Woodview and Kennedy schools at 4 or 5 and the high school at 2 or 3.
Lightner said results of preliminary assessments will continue with a March 9 presentation by Point of Beginning, a firm evaluating outdoor athletic facilities, and a March 23 presentation by Heartland Business Systems, which is assessing technology systems.
Lorge also suggested the evaluations include a “quantitative analysis” of the district’s future needs, including projected enrollment.
“These issues could possibly be addressed in April 2016 via a referendum,” Lightner said in a report to the board.
”However, it is vital that a group of citizens be convened to conduct an extensive review of the information and to evaluate options of how the district might address the facilities issues.
“The proactive approach of involving citizens early on in the process is important to the district.”