Janesville47°

Milton to look at cuts in high school plan

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Stacy Vogel
February 3, 2009
— Much has changed in Milton since July, when the high school design team recommended a $76.7 million building project.

Now, the school district will try to reflect those changes in its building plans.


The school board decided Monday night to look for cost cuts, obtain an updated construction estimate and talk to the YMCA about a possible pool collaboration.


President Rob Roy scheduled the special meeting to talk about the future of the project, even though the board probably won't set a referendum date for at least a year, he said.


"In order to meet the needs we're facing, we need to move forward, but we also need to find ways we could economize," he said.


The district started planning a new high school a year and a half ago. It was facing enrollment growth of about 100 students a year, and several facilities were at or close to capacity.


That growth appears to have slowed with the collapse of the housing market and the end of SUV production at the Janesville General Motors plant. The district lost 20 students at the start of the 2008-09 school year and another 27 students by January.


But growth wasn't the only reason the district was considering a new school, Superintendent Bernie Nikolay said.


"The (high school) was built in 1965 without thought to programs that exist today" such as special education, English language learning and girls sports, he said.


Still, some board members said the district could do without some elements of the proposed project.


A design team, with the help of Plunkett Raysich Architects and Miron Construction, in July recommended a $69.4 million high school. It also recommended $7.3 million to move the middle school into the existing high school building.


Board member Mike Pierce thinks $7.3 million is too much, he said.


"I just couldn't believe it that it came back that high," he said.


He and other members suggested the district could save money by re-examining the plan for the practice or "green" gym at the existing high school. The design team suggested the gym be turned into space for the district office and the alternative high school at a cost of $2 million.


Other cost-cutting suggestions included:


-- Collaborating with the YMCA, which is planning a facility in Milton, on a pool. The current plan calls for a $4.4 million pool in the new high school.


-- Remodeling the existing greenhouse instead of building a new one. A new greenhouse would cost $216,000 compared to $18,000 to remodel, Business Manager Dianne Meyer said.


-- Skipping some classroom renovation at the existing high school. The plan calls for $2.8 million in classroom and kitchen renovations, including making classrooms bigger. Middle School Principle Tim Schigur said he believes the money could be better spent elsewhere.


The district also should get a new construction estimate because building costs have come down since the housing slump, Roy said.


But district resident Fred Hookham, a vocal critic of the plan, said those changes won't be enough. He said the district should look for cheaper ways to meet needs.


"I don't think we need a new high school, period," he said.



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