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Menomonee Falls School District eliminates facilities options

Aug. 15, 2014

Menomonee Falls — Six months into discussion about the future of facilities in the Menomonee Falls School District, two options have been taken off the table.

In a work session Aug. 11, district staff sought the input of the school board and school principals on three proposed options for proceeding with the estimated $20 million in maintenance projects earmarked for completion in the next five years. The projects include everything from asphalt replacement, galvanized piping and plumbing fixtures, to improvements to the high school and middle school auditoriums and Project Lead the Way classrooms.

Referendum possible

"The budget is not going to support all of these capital maintenance needs," explained Director of Business Services Jeff Gross. "At some point we'll have to ask the voters to help us take care of the buildings with some additional dollars to make sure they're still standing in 10, 20, 25, 30 years. That's a commitment the community makes to education to finance good buildings so we can educate kids."

There has been some preliminary discussion of a possible referendum, but if that were to move forward, Superintendent Pat Greco said it would not be likely until spring 2016.

"We've got five-year maintenance items to be addressed, we've got program and curricular upgrades to be addressed, and then we've got elementary configuration questions to be answered," Gross said.

In the meantime, the board will continue to work within its existing $750,000 annual budgeted amount for improvements rather than pursuing other options. The first concept that has now been set aside involved reconfiguring the district's four existing elementary schools into a 4K through second grade operating structure at Ben Franklin and Riverside and third through fifth grade structure at Shady Lane and Valley View.

Another option involved the demolition of the former Thomas Jefferson Middle School, which has been closed since 2005. At anestimated cost of $31.7 million including demolition, this option would have involved closing one of the district's elementary schools and moving its operations into an entirely new building that would be as much as 150,000 square feet.

Status quo for now

Instead of making either of these changes, the board ultimately decided to stand by their $750,000 annual capital improvement budget, at least for now.

"At the end of the day, in my head, five years you leave everything the way it is, you deal with your budgets and you focus on the educational and operational priorities," suggested board member Scott Ternes. "So (we're) kind of stuck down a lane (we) can't get out of because the alternate scenario isn't any rosier than what you have from a cost/payback perspective."

Another piece of the puzzle that Greco pointed to as needing to be addressed is the future of Thomas Jefferson.

"When we do advance the conversation about priorities we are going to have to wrestle with what do we believe the vision for TJ is the next 10 years," she said. "Ultimately TJ is going to need more than a boiler, we're ultimately going to have to make a commitment one way or another for that facility."

A majority of the $15.8 million it would take to bring Thomas Jefferson back online as an operating school is accounted for with major work to the heating, air-conditioning and ventilation (HVAC) that is needed.

Meanwhile, Board President Faith Vanderhorst said the priority as discussion progresses will need to be on curriculum.

"The other piece that needs to be rolled into this (discussion) is where do we see curriculum going," she challenged. "I think we need to put what we're here for first, what are we valuing for education, and then come back and say this is how it all plays out."

Educational priorities, and their subsequent impact on facilities planning, will be the focus of the continued discussion at another work session following the board meeting on Monday, Aug. 25.

NEXT STEP

WHAT: continued discussion on educational priorities and facilities planning

WHEN: 6 p.m. Monday, August 25

WHERE: Village Hall, W156 N8480 Pilgrim Road

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