Janesville69.4°

Parkview undecided on facilities plan

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GINA R. HEINE
November 15, 2011
— Deciding whether to close a school takes a lot of time.

And a lot of emotional debate.


Parkview School District members could tell you firsthand.


Last month, members of a planning committee studying a long-term facility plan and the school board were moving toward a plan to close Footville and Newark elementary schools after this year.


But after administrators Monday night showed the group how the proposal looks sketched out by classroom, several people expressed concerns ranging from packing too many kids into a school to living with a "tent city" of portable classrooms.


If the district closed Newark and Footville, all students would attend Orfordville, which would need additional classrooms and push the sixth grade to the junior high. The committee is considering having the district buy up to eight portable classrooms at a cost of $763,500, using money from the district's reserves so no referendum would be needed.


But other costs, such as relocating playgrounds and adding portable computer labs, are not included, group members pointed out. The proposal also brings undesirable considerations such as not having an art room—the art teacher would move her "classroom" on a cart—to having no designated space for band/choir and no office space for reading specialists and physical education teachers.


Administrators would make the plans work, Parkview District Superintendent Steve Lutzke said, but that doesn't mean they're ideal.


But as most Parkview meetings go, speakers Monday night returned to the age-old debate of closing Newark versus Footville.


A community member asked Lutzke whether the positives of centralizing the elementary schools outweighed the negatives of the proposed plan.


"You've put me in a sticky situation, because I think we could achieve those things we just talked about without having to go to this extreme," Lutzke said.


He referred to his recommendation from last year to close just Newark, which the school board voted against.


Only one thing has to happen, junior/senior high school Principal Bill Trow said in a passionate speech.


"Everyone here knows what it is," he said, referring to closing Newark. "From that point on, we can have a conversation for the community, with the community of what we need to do. … Until somebody does the difficult thing, we're going to sit here two years from now, we're going to have the same conversation."


Residents and board members who support Newark, however, said the same could be said about closing Footville.


Whatever decision the board makes, administrators stressed it has to come soon because they are beginning class scheduling and staffing for next year.


School board President Troy Knudson said it didn't appear the group would have a majority consensus on any decision. He requested the group review photos of portable classrooms and the cost of building permanent classrooms at Orfordville at the board's meeting Monday, Nov. 21.


With that information, the board could make a decision at a special meeting on Monday, Nov. 28, Knudson said.


The board planned no more meetings for the long-range planning committee but invited those members to the next two board meetings.


STORYLINE

What's happened: The Parkview School District's long-range planning committee has been studying options for its facilities in light of declining enrollment and tight budgets. The committee formed after the school board voted in December not to close Newark Elementary for this year and instead study a long-term plan for the district.


What's new: The planning committee and school board on Monday night discussed the cost of adding portable classrooms to Orfordville Elementary to close the two outlying schools, Footville and Newark. Board members asked for more information before making a decision.


What's next: The school board will discuss the issue at its regular meeting at 6 p.m. Monday at the high school and possibly vote on a decision at a special meeting on Monday, Nov. 28.



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