Parkview plans referendum options

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Gina Duwe
Friday, August 23, 2013

ORFORDVILLE—Parkview School District voters could face two referendums in April seeking $1.5 million over three years to maintain operating expenses and $17 million to build and renovate a new junior/senior high school at the current elementary school.

Those are options the district's long-range facility planning committee is leaning toward after considering solutions for the district's aging buildings for more than a year.

At their meeting Thursday night, committee members discussed the best strategies to determine if residents would support their ideas and how to present them to the community.

Superintendent Steve Lutzke wondered how to get people to feel the importance he believes a new school holds for the community. He told of returning to his old school after it had a $30 million renovation, which he believes must make students and teachers feel supported and appreciated by their community.

"They invested in you, and they support you," he said. "I want that for Parkview, because that's going to transform this community-not just the kids in the building. It's going to make Orfordville and Parkview something to be proud of. Right now, we don't have (that) ... Everything's old and dilapidated."

The district has faced declining enrollment and subsequent state aid-it went from 1,038 students in 2009-10 to 913 projected this fall-and aging buildings that need maintenance-its two lower-grade schools are more than 50 years old and the junior/senior highs are more than 40 years old.

The long-range planning committee developed three options, ranging from $7 million to $19 million. It plans to meet Sept. 24 to refine its ideas before presenting the options to the public Oct. 15. Residents will be invited to listen and give respond on whether they would vote for the referendums.

Committee members favored the $17 million option to essentially swap the junior/senior high with the elementary school in Orfordville by building additions and renovating the existing buildings, school board President Clay Hammes said. But, he said, they need to bring the three options to the next group of community members to see if the idea is realistic.

The three options are:

-- Remodel/build to create grades 4k through sixth at the current junior/senior high and grades seven through 12 at Parkview Elementary in Orfordville. Close Parkview Primary. Estimated cost is $17 million: $12 million for the high school portion and $5 million for the elementary.

-- Remodel/build to create grades 4k through third at Parkview Elementary and grades four to 12 at the junior/senior high. Close Parkview Primary. Estimated cost: $19 million.

-- Remodel the district's existing buildings, which need work regardless. Cost: $7 million to $9 million.

Somerville of Green Bay provided the cost estimates.

The committee has focused on the options that would close the primary school in Footville. The district conservatively estimated a savings of $202,500 annually if it closed that school.

While the district has cut more than $3 million from its operating budget over the last 10 years, it still faces a deficit of $1.5 million over the next three years, Lutzke said.

If the district doesn't pass a referendum to exceed the revenue cap, it would face serious cuts to programming and staff, he said, which could drive more students out of the district.

Thursday night's discussion included ideas on how to educate the public about the need for upgrading facilities and how to show what is in it for different groups of community members.

Some older residents will say school was fine when they attended-back when everyone sat in rows and listened to the teacher, who drew on the blackboard, committee members said. The district needs to be able to help those residents understand how much education has changed since they were in school, they said.

They also need to tackle the critics who say the district should dissolve, Hammes said, because many do not realize all the negative consequences. Maybe they should present it as a presentation slide: "What if there was no Parkview?" he suggested. It would emphasize the decreased property values residents would face and likely tax increases.

District voters in April 2012 rejected a $5 million referendum that would have added 13 classrooms and a new gym at the Orfordville elementary school and closed the schools in Footville and Newark. The school board voted later that month to close Newark Elementary and consolidate the students into the schools in Footville and Orfordville.

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