Janesville77.1°

Ground breaks, schools shake, taxpayers’ millions go to work

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
November 8, 2007
— “Sometimes the ground shakes, and you’re, like, ‘oh my God what’s happening?’”

That was Kali Lentz, a senior at Craig High School, talking about construction work on the referendum-approved project that has begun at her school.


Lentz was one of hundreds of Craig and Parker high school students who attended groundbreaking ceremonies Wednesday at their schools.


Officials finished one ceremony at Craig and then crossed town to a similar ceremony at Parker.


Large machines already had gashed the ground and torn out trees at both schools many days before. Workers had constructed temporary gravel lots to park their cars. They expanded parking lots for students. They walled off and gutted Craig’s cafeteria and Tech Center East.


But Wednesday was the day for the groundbreaking, officials said, because it was one year to the day since voters said yes to the referendum that made the massive projects possible.


The vote was 13,040 to 9,973.


That was a wonderful feeling, referendum backer Julie Ackerman said as she recalled referendum night, “but this is way better.”


“Thank you, taxpayers, whether you voted yes or no or didn’t vote,” Superintendent Tom Evert said.


Every speaker thanked the taxpayers, who will pay back the $70.8 million with interest.


Parker science teacher Sean Hildebrandt said his fellow teachers desperately needed the improvements, which should improve air quality, lighting and classrooms, especially in science, where 40-year-old labs are too few and too outdated.


“We now have the availability to be flexible, and it’ll really affect the way we teach every single day,” Hildebrandt said. “So we won’t ever take for granted the new structure, once it’s here. We know where we’ve been.”


Craig alumnus and now teacher Nathan Perry said he worked in a Michigan high school that moved from an old building to a new one, and he recalled that students came to school more eager to learn, and teachers were more willing to put in the extra hours needed to provide an education worthy of the new building.


The community also found in the school a new source of pride, Perry said.


The ceremonies benefited from sunny skies and crisp air that carried the voices of students raised in song.


“In a year and a half, maybe, I think we’re going to be very proud of our school,” said Erin Jensen, Parker sophomore class president.


Craig senior and student newspaper reporter Nicole Barrington ticked off the planned improvements. The most significant item on her list: “Temperatures will actually be relatively consistent throughout the entire building.”


A “construction blitz” is planned at both schools next summer, But that won’t be enough. Construction is expected to continue through the summer of 2009.


Paying off the referendum bond issue begins with this year’s tax bills and continues for about 20 years.


The buildings are expected to benefit all the district’s children now alive and many yet to be born.


If you missed it

Video of the groundbreaking ceremonies is scheduled to be shown on Janesville cable Channel 13 on Tuesday, Nov. 13, and Saturday, Nov. 17, at 3, 6 and 9 a.m., noon, 3, 6 and 9 p.m.


Quotes

Quotes from Wednesday’s groundbreaking ceremonies at Craig and Parker high schools:


-- “We owe the citizens of Janesville our thanks for not only voting for the referendum a year ago but also for believing in our students.”—Parker Principal Dale Carlson


-- “I have always been proud of this community, but never so proud as now.”—Parker teacher Mary Arndt, who grew up in Janesville


-- “I’m thanking you ahead of time for the cooperation you’re going to be giving all these people who are going to be working on these buildings the next couple of years, OK?”—School board member Dennis Vechinsky, speaking to Parker students


-- “I’d like to say, ‘Thank you,’ to the citizens of this community for your willingness to support education and to provide future generations of students the opportunities they deserve, to become all that they can be and to contribute all that they possibly can. It makes me proud to live in Janesville.”—Craig teacher Ed Stried


-- “It’ll be exciting to see the changes that will happen. I’ll enjoy it for however long I’ll have it.”—Craig sophomore Declan Boran-Ratotzy, who will have it for just one year


-- “It’s cool for the rest of the kids, but I’m a senior, so I’m graduating.”—Craig senior Kali Lentz



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