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School Board to look at Band-Aid solutions
Mount Horeb Mail
Thursday, July 3, 2008

By Michele Kraft

While debate over the location of a proposed new high school continues, the issue of how to serve the educational needs of the school district remains. The Mount Horeb Board of Education had hoped to put a referendum before the public outlining a solution that would cover growth for all of the school district's students for the next 17 to 20 years.

With a perceived lack of progress through the joint committee, the school board has started to look at potential "Band-Aid solutions," as Superintendent Dr. Wayne Anderson calls them, on existing school property, eliminating the need for significant village cooperation.

"The problem is what's the cost of that Band-Aid?" School Board President Ken Cole said. "If we spend $20 to $25 million now [on renovations], will that make spending $50 or $60 million more attractive in five or seven years?
"Once you've started down the Band-Aid road, you're kind of committed to Band-Aids."

"We did our due diligence," Treasurer Dwight Zweifel said. "We listened to the Citizen's Committee. We listened to the joint meetings. We listened to public meetings. We've provided all our information on how we came up with that plan. My proposal is we simply add the classrooms."

Zweifel went on to discuss the acreage the school board owns on Highway JG and the refusal of the village board to annex the property. Annexation is needed to bring water and sewer service to the site.

"We were told we couldn't have that [annexation]," Cole said. "The only reason we turned to the golf course is because the village board said no. Now they say, 'You don't even want your own piece of property?'"

Cole outlined what he described as the destruction of trust and the lack of a working relationship between the two boards.

"When they say in no uncertain terms we can't have the [Highway JG site], I took them at their word," Cole said. "They say the same thing on Lukken. They give us 19 or 20 reasons why we couldn't have it. So we said, 'Okay.' We were backed into a corner."

Director Jeff Jenkins noted that the public outcry regarding losing Norsk Golf Bowl to a high school reflects the incorrect belief that if the land is not used for a high school, it would remain a golf course.

"But the thing is, we've got to get this school up," Jenkins said. "That Primary Center is just an awful place. If we can at least get the kids out of that into something, the village board is going to drown in their own bologna after a while and get voted out and we might get a new board in there that might work with us."

"But it doesn't solve high school crowding by building a new Primary Center" Cole replied.

"That's another area, what happens to the PC?" Director Jim Sauter asked.
Zweifel responded that people interested in saving the Primary Center should come up with a plan to save it because the cost of heating and cooling the building alone make it obsolete.

"Years ago, we talked about building a new elementary school and allow the voters to decide what happens to the old one, whether it's saved or it's renovated, goes to the village," Vice President Scott Winner said "That's what our conversation has been in the past."

"If we're able to put an addition on to the high school," Zweifel said, "add classrooms and administration, and build a new combination Early Learning Center and PC, unfortunately, that brings grade six back to the Intermediate Center. From a standpoint of what would be best for the kids, we don't want to do that."

Anderson said that the middle school teachers as well as the parents want to keep a structure with the sixth grade as the youngest middle school grade rather than the oldest of the elementary students.

"It's educationally sound to keep the middle school the way it is, the high school the way it is [and] put the Band-Aid on it," Winner said. "The taxpayers want it for 20 years, we make a Band-Aid for five years, and let it cost 25 percent more when the next school board decides to settle it."

"The comments I've heard [are] '85 million? That's not going to pass referendum.'," Zweifel said. "I've also heard, 'Why do we make it out of brick? Why don't we put it in a pole shed?' There are a lot of numbers you can make arguments on. If you're good with numbers, you can throw them around and make them fit whatever you like. But from the [Buildings, Grounds, Insurance and Transportation] committee perspective, every building we have needs work."

Anderson said he would put together several options for short-term solutions.

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