Written by BILL SCHANEN IV
Wednesday, 01 October 2014 18:29
PWHS offers video version of classroom instruction it believes will attract students throughout Wisconsin
Port Washington High School wasn’t alone a decade ago when it cut driver’s education from its curriculum to save money, but it is now.
Two weeks ago, Port High became the first high school in Wisconsin to reintroduce the classroom portion of driver’s ed in an online version open not just to its students but teenagers throughout the state.
Administrators say the class, which is certified by both the Wisconsin departments of Public Instruction and Transportation, is just as rigorous as its classroom predecessor, far more convenient and potentially profitable for a school district that is already marketing it to soon-to-be drivers.
“We designed this program to meet the needs of our students, but that said, there’s potential for us to also capture a portion of the driver’s-ed market in the state with this rigorous DPI and DOT-certified course,” Jim Froemming, the district’s director of business services, said. “It’s a very attractive program, and we think it could also be lucrative for the district.”
The district is charging $129 for the course and splitting the revenue with the program’s certified instructor, Scott Bretl, who developed the course.
Bretl owns the Port Washington-based driver’s education franchise Just Drive, but his company is not involved in the online program. Instead, Bretl is employed by the School District to monitor and teach the course.
In Wisconsin, online driver’s education classes must be offered by schools, which explains why Bretl approached the district with the idea of launching a web-based class.
Currently, only a technical college in southwest Wisconsin and a Cooperative Education Service Agency (CESA) offer online driver’s education classes in Wisconsin.
Driver’s education had been part of the school curriculum until nearly 10 years ago, when the Department of Public Instruction stopped reimbursing for the cost of the program. That prompted many school systems, including the Port-Saukville District, which was faced with a $700,000 deficit at the time, to drop driver’s education.
Now, the district’s online version is being billed as a cost effective program that capitalizes on convenience.
Before the online class, students had to fit 30 hours of classroom instruction offered by a private provider into their schedules either after school or during the summer. They are able to take the online classes at any time and anywhere they have access to a computer and the Internet, although they will still have to complete the behind-the-wheel training, which is not offered by the district.
“Now that all high school students have Chromebooks, they can take driver’s ed during their study halls,” Bretl said when the program was approved by the School Board in June.
But that’s not to say the online course will be easier than the classroom alternative or that students will be able to whip through the 30-hour program in a day or two.
The course consists of 40 sessions that are at least 45 minutes long. Students can spend more than 45 minutes on each session — an advantage, administrator say, over the classroom alternative — but not less time.
Students can take only one course a day during the school year and two during the summer. That means that the course runs a minimum of six weeks during the school year and three weeks during the summer.
Each class consists of an overview presented in video form by an instructor, a public service announcement, reading assignment from the Wisconsin Motorists’ Handbook and video with material that will be on a session quiz.
Each quiz, which students must pass in order to move to the next session, will consist of 15 multiple choice questions. If students fail the quiz, they will be allowed to retake it once before they are locked out of the program. Before they are allowed to continue, the instructor must speak with their parents.
A final test must be passed before students are given a course completion certificate and allowed to take behind-the-wheel instruction.
“This is not going to be an easy way of taking the classroom portion of driver’s education, as this is going to take motivation and self-discipline,” Bretl says in a video introduction to the course.
The video features 14 Port Washington High School graduates, most of them law enforcement officers, who emphasize the seriousness of driving responsibly.
In the video, Bretl appears seated at a desk superimposed on the Port High football field and later at the Port Washington marina, and promises to feature other areas of Port and Saukville in his online lectures.
“I did this so it’s not so boring watching me give these lectures,” he says.
The driver’s education class can be accessed at www.pwhsonlinedriversed.com.
Written by BILL SCHANEN IV
Wednesday, 24 September 2014 18:04
Hundreds of residents have already returned surveys testing support for school improvements
The Port Washington-Saukville School District’s $86-$97 million school improvement proposal has caught the public’s attention.
As of Tuesday morning, just four days after surveys intended to gauge public support for the proposal and what could be one of the most expensive referendums in Wisconsin began arriving in homes, 745 completed questionnaires had been returned.
“We’ve had a huge response already,” Supt. Michael Weber told the School Board’s Building and Grounds Committee Monday.
According to School Perceptions, the Slinger-based company hired to conduct the survey, a 10% to 20% response is considered a representative sample of district residents, Weber said.
The district mailed roughly 8,000 surveys to residents and also e-mailed surveys to more than one-third of those residents.
“We’re going to exceed 10% to 20%, considering we’re almost at 10% already. We could push 30%,” Weber said during an interview. “This shows that the public is very interested in this, which is what we want.”
School officials have said repeatedly that the results of the surveys, which are due by 5 p.m. Monday, Oct. 6, will dictate whether the board decides to hold a referendum and how much money it will seek to borrow.
The survey is based on a study of facilities and a proposal by Bray Architects that calls for renovating and enlarging the district’s three elementary schools and building a like-new or brand-new high school.
Demolishing about 70% of Port Washington High School and rebuilding on the current site at 427 W. Jackson St., as well as renovating and enlarging elementary schools, would cost $86 million, according to Bray Architects.
If the projects are approved, school property taxes would increase $461 per $100,000 of property value. The owner of a $200,000 home — roughly the average property value in the City of Port Washington — would pay an additional $922 in property taxes for years to come.
If, however, district residents and the School Board choose the more expensive high school option — building a new school on a site that has yet to be determined — the total cost of the projects is estimated to be $97 million.
That would increase school property taxes by $513 per $100,000 of property value. The owner of a $200,000 home would pay an additional $1,026 annually in taxes.
The eight-page survey divides the projects into two groups — elementary school improvements and high school options. It asks residents if they support the elementary school projects and which high school option, if either, they prefer, then asks them if the elementary schools or high school project should be done first or if they should be done at the same time or not at this time.
“Maybe residents will support doing all the projects at once, but I’d be surprised,” Matt Wolfert, president of Bray Architects, told the board last month. “Most communities typically don’t favor that.”
Remodeling and building additions onto Lincoln and Dunwiddie elementary schools in Port Washington and Saukville Elementary School is estimated to cost $25 million.
That would increase school property taxes by $184 per $100,000 of property value. The owner of a $200,000 home would pay about $368 in additional taxes annually for 10 years to finance the improvements.
“The fact is, we are out of space at our elementary schools,” Weber said, adding that grades that have an unusually large number of students put pressure on already cramped schools.
The additions at Lincoln and Saukville elementary schools would include large new gyms and community rooms. Existing gyms would be redesigned to provide additional classrooms and library space.
At Dunwiddie Elementary School, an addition would be built on the north side of the building to provide a more secure entrance, community room and classrooms.
Deferred maintenance projects would be undertaken at all elementary schools. They include the replacement of roofs, security and safety upgrades, replacement of mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems, parking lot, sidewalk and playground improvements and kitchen upgrades.
Many of the new facilities at the elementary schools and Port High, in particular the gyms, would be designed with community use in mind to alleviate the demand for indoor recreation space.
The high school project would be the most expensive, and the survey asks residents for feedback on both the like-new and brand-new options.
“The high school has been a concern going back to the 1970s, when we added the tech-ed wing and the auditorium,” Weber said. “And it continues to be the topic of conversation.”
The like-new option, which calls for demolishing and rebuilding about 70% of the school on its current site, is estimated to cost $61 million.
It would increase school property taxes by $277 per $100,000 of property value. The owner of a $200,000 home would pay an additional $554 in taxes annually for 22 years.
The project would provide new classrooms, science labs, an art studio, cafeteria, library and arena-style competition and auxiliary gyms separated by wrestling, weight training and fitness rooms.
The parts of the school that would be renovated rather than rebuilt are the Washington Heights building on the north end of the school, the technology education wing to the west of it and the auditorium at the southeast end of the school.
Plumbing, heating and electrical systems in the school, which dates to 1931 and has grown over the years through a series of additions, would be replaced. Antiquated safety systems such as fire alarms, exit lighting and the backup generator, bathrooms that do not comply with Americans with Disabilities standards and the roof would be addressed.
The other option is to build a new high school on a yet-to-be-determined site at an estimated cost of $72 million.
This project would increase school property taxes by $329 per $100,000 of property value. The owner of a $200,000 home would pay an additional $659 in taxes annually for 22 years.
The problem with this option is that the district has not identified a new site for a school, although Wolfert said the projected cost includes an estimate for land acquisition and the extension of utilities to the site.
Last month, School Board member Sara McCutcheon asked whether the survey should give residents some indication that the district has been unable to find a new high school site in the City of Port Washington.
Weber said that if residents favor a new school on a new site, the district would undertake a study of potential locations throughout the district, which in addition to the City of Port Washington includes portions of the village and town of Saukville and the Town of Grafton.
Whether additional studies and planning are needed will depend in large part on the survey, which is why a strong response is important, school officials have said.
The surveys can be filled out and mailed to the school district or taken online at a School Perceptions website.
Each survey includes a unique code to prevent the same person from submitting multiple surveys and instructs people to call the district office if they need additional surveys, in cases, for instance, where multiple adults live at the same address.
Weber said this week that in such cases, one person can take the survey online and the other can complete the printed survey. Although the surveys will have the same code, both will be accepted, he said.
Members of the Building and Grounds Committee plan to review the results of the survey during either the week of Oct. 13 or Oct. 20, and discussed Monday whether to extend what officials called a “special invitation” to the public to attend that meeting or to present the results to the public at a later date or in a different way. The results will be posted on the district’s website, officials said.
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 17 September 2014 18:32
Jaycees contribute $6,200 from run/walk but city has yet to fund safety measure
The Port Washington-Saukville Jaycees raised more than $6,000 for a railing along the promenade in Coal Dock Park — a cause near and dear to many of the organizers’ hearts — during the inaugural Land Regatta Run and Walk in August.
News of the donation came just weeks after the city learned that it did not receive a Wisconsin stewardship grant it had applied for to pay as much as half the estimated $200,000 cost of the railing, Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven said.
“We’re going to search for other grant sources,” he said.
That means the railing, which has been an amenity sought by many since the park opened last summer, won’t be installed until at least next year, officials said.
And that will only happen if funding is found for the railing.
The importance of the railing was recognized by the Jaycees, who dedicated the proceeds from their first walk-run, held during Maritime Heritage Festival, to the effort.
“We wanted the run-walk to support a community project, and we thought this was something the community would be passionate about and something we care about,” said Christina Brickner, a Jaycee who organized the Land Regatta.
“The safety of the park is important to us. For us, having that railing is very important. Some of us don’t even go to that park because there’s no railing.”
Jaycees are people ages 18 to 40, Brickner said, adding that the core of the local group are people with young families.
Many of the more than 200 participants in the Land Regatta felt the same way as the Jaycees, Brickner said, adding the proceeds came not just from the race fee but donations as well.
One young boy brought in about $70, the money he raised from a lemonade stand, she noted.
“That was awesome, really heartwarming” Brickner said.
The Jaycees will present the money to the city when funds are budgeted for the railing, Brickner said.
“We want to see it appear in the budget first,” she said.
The Jaycees, who hope to pick the community cause for the second Land Regatta by the end of the year, are the second civic group to help fund the railing. The Port Washington Woman’s Club has also pledged $1,000.
City Administrator Mark Grams said he isn’t sure whether money will be placed in the city’s 2015 budget for the railing, noting that officials are looking into other grant opportunities to help pay for it.
The Department of Natural Resources suggested the city apply for a boat infrastructure grant that could be used for the railing, Vanden Noven said. The city could receive as much as $100,000
from this fund, he said.
While many people support the idea of adding a railing along the 1,000-foot-long promenade, not everyone thinks it is necessary.
The Coal Dock Park promenade was created without a railing to keep people away from the edge of the water, in large part to offer maximum flexibility when large ships dock there.
The walkway was built especially wide — 18-1/2 feet — to ensure people can enjoy the walkway and lake but stay away from the edge.
But when the park opened, the lack of a railing became a notable omission for some people, including members of the city’s Parks and Recreation Board.
They recommended that the city install a railing, saying it is an essential safety measure that needs to be in place to prevent visitors, especially young children, from falling into the west slip, where the currents make the water dangerous.
Vanden Noven said the proposed railing would match the existing rail, but would be constructed about four feet from the edge of the promenade.
“If people wanted to fish off the edge or get on or off a ship docked there, they could,” he said.
Gates would be placed to allow people easy access to the dock, he added.
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 10 September 2014 20:08
City officials will write letter of support asking NOAA to designate area between Port and Two Rivers for project
The Port Washington Harbor Commission on Monday threw its support behind an effort to create a marine sanctuary that would stretch from Port to Two Rivers.
Commission members agreed to write a letter of support asking that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration designate the 875-square-mile stretch of Lake Michigan between the two
communities as a sanctuary.
Mayor Tom Mlada said he is seeking letters of support from community groups, residents and other interested parties to support the sanctuary application.
“We want to show there is broad-based support for this,” he said, adding the city will hold a public forum on the proposal in October.
Commission members asked a few questions following a presentation on the proposed sanctuary by Mayor Tom Mlada, who attended an anniversary celebration recently at Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center in Alpena, Mich.
Of NOAA’s 14 existing sanctuaries, Thunder Bay is the only one on the Great Lakes, Mlada noted.
“It literally and in many ways, transformed the community,” he said, noting the center brings in an estimated 80,000 visitors annually. “It’s difficult to overstate it — it would mean extraordinary things for us.”
Mlada said a draft application for a local sanctuary is being completed by officials from four communities that would be part of it — Port, Sheboygan, Manitowoc and Two Rivers — and is expected to be forwarded to Ellen Brody, NOAA’s regional coordinator for the Great Lakes and northeast region by Oct. 3.
A completed application is expected to be submitted to NOAA by Oct. 10, he added.
The application for a Lake Michigan sanctuary is likely to be met favorably, Mlada said, noting he was approached at the celebration by NOAA’s national director.
“He pulled me aside and asked me, ‘Where is your application, we’re waiting for your application,’” Mlada said.
When it was first envisioned, Mlada noted, the proposed sanctuary was seen as being headquartered in one community.
Now, it is being envisioned as a collaborative work between four communities, each of which would have a presence by NOAA, he said, adding that a headquarters will likely be placed in one community.
“Each community will have some things,” he said. “Even if we didn’t get the main office here, the impact would be significant here.”
If approved, this would be the first regional sanctuary for NOAA, Mlada added.
The sanctuary being proposed by Port Washington and the other communities would center around the many shipwrecks in the area.
Within the proposed sanctuary borders, there are 33 known shipwrecks, including the two oldest in Wisconsin, Mlada said. Seven of those wrecks are not far from Port Washington, and three are just north of the Ozaukee County line.