Janesville62.1°

Milton looks long term

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Stacy Vogel
November 18, 2007
— Superintendent Peg Ekedahl is the first to admit that Milton High School is adequate for students’ current needs.

Sure, the athletic facilities are cramped. The multi-media classroom is out-of-date.


But the real problems are at Milton Middle School, Ekedahl said. There, students cram into a former custodial office for math class. The choir room still bears a sign on the door reading “athletic storage.”


So why did the Milton School Board vote in August to plan a new high school?


The new high school is only part of the district’s plan to deal with exploding enrollment, Ekedahl said.


“It’s a K-12 project that happens to include a new high school,” she said.


A new middle school might have solved the district’s space issues for a few years, she said. But the elementary- and middle-school age students crowding the schools now eventually will be high schoolers.


Instead, the board wants to plan for the long-term by building a new high school on land next to the current one, Ekedahl said. It then would move Milton Middle School into the old building, along with the district offices and the Milton, Edgerton, Clinton Alternative School.


Part of the task of the design team, set to meet for the first time Tuesday, is to create a realignment plan “to make the most effective use of existing facilities to accommodate growth,” according to a memo from board President Sue Johnson.


When the board was trying to decide between a new high school and a new middle school, it held about a dozen community meetings to discuss the issue. Residents at the meetings were strongly in favor of a new high school when they heard the facts, Ekedahl said, and the district hopes the rest of the voters feel the same way.


“It’s a new way of thinking,” she said. “We’ve never had a referendum that wasn’t an immediate solution.”


But one school board member doesn’t think the board has been forward-thinking at all. Michael Pierce, the only board member to vote against moving forward with a new high school, thinks the board rushed a couple of key decisions.


The board didn’t spend enough time on the decision between a middle and high school to make sure it got accurate information, he said.


Although the latest cost estimates say a new high school would cost about twice as much as a new middle school, he believes it’s closer to three times as much, he said.


“I just felt we weren’t getting good information,” he said. “We only talked about it like at two meetings in the six months before we voted.”


The district wouldn’t need a new school at all if it had agreed to adjust its boundaries with the Janesville School District, Pierce said. Much of the Milton district’s future growth is expected to be within the city of Janesville.


The Milton School Board considered discussing a new boundary agreement with the Janesville district in late 2005 but quickly abandoned the idea.


Pierce said he’s moved past those decisions, but he’s still not sure if he or the taxpayers will support a new high school.


“They can go on and design (the new school), but I don’t know if the public’s going to support it or not,” he said.


District takes next step toward new high school


By Stacy Vogel


svogel@gazettextra.com


MILTON


Designing a new high school is complicated enough.


Throw in a district realignment and the possibility of shared facilities, and you really have your work cut out for you.


Those are a few of the challenges that will face the Milton School District’s new design team when it meets for the first time Tuesday.


The team—made up of 15 community volunteers and two school board liaisons—is charged with presenting two or three designs for a new high school and offering suggestions to divide kindergarten through eighth-grade students among the remaining buildings.


It will work with Plunkett Raysich Architects, the firm the district hired in October for preliminary design work.


The district bought land for the new facility next to the current high school in 2006. Because the two buildings will be so close, they might be able to share some facilities, Superintendent Peg Ekedahl said.


Part of the design team’s job is to decide what facilities the new high school will need and what it can share with the old building, which probably will become the district’s middle school.


The board’s latest cost estimate for a new high school is $60 million, but that number could jump to $80 million with a pool, large field house or auditorium.


Facilities in question include:


-- An auditorium. The district built a new, 750-seat auditorium in 1998 as part of a $7.2 million expansion and remodeling project.


“I would be surprised if (a new auditorium) was part of the design team’s recommendation,” Ekedahl said.


-- A pool. The pool at the current high school is aging and too small to hold swim tournaments, Ekedahl said.


-- Technical and agricultural education facilities, now located behind the high school.


-- A kitchen. Almost all the food served in the district’s schools is cooked in the current high school’s kitchen, but the district is outgrowing the space, Ekedahl said.


The design team is expected to present its recommendations to the board in June, Ekedahl said.


After that, the school board will decide when and if to hold a referendum to build a new school.



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