Janesville53°

Parkview school-closure decision leaves many questions

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GINA R. HEINE
November 30, 2011
— Footville and Newark elementary schools will close, and Parkview School District residents will be asked for nearly $4 million.

Beyond those two certainties from the school board’s decision Monday, many questions remain, including which schools will be open next year.


The board voted Monday to close both schools at an undetermined date and to hold a referendum asking voter permission to build classrooms and a gym at Orfordville Elementary.


Included in the board’s decision is a plan to use eight portable classrooms if the referendum fails.


How the details play out depends on whether a referendum can by readied in time for the April ballot, something Superintendent Steve Lutzke on Monday night said was unlikely.


In an email to the Gazette, he said he started Tuesday making calls about developing a request for proposals for the project, and the district will need to hire a referendum consultant.


“The election is April 3, and we have to pass a resolution 45 days prior to the election. However, Rock County will need to know sooner than that if we are going to have a referendum question on the ballot,” he said.


The district needs a more precise cost estimate to present to the community for a referendum, and Lutzke said administrators are gathering that information.


The board based its Monday decision on a $3.89 million estimate from Ringland-Johnson of Cherry Valley, Ill., for a 29,056-square-foot addition. The estimate includes 14 classrooms and a gym that would become the site of high school sports games. The proposal does not include remodeling of the existing school, and administrators have said the kitchen needs remodeling.


In September, J.P. Cullen & Sons presented a $9.26 million proposal that included adding a new gym, a new cafeteria and 20,000 square feet of classroom space and remodeling part of the school.


Borrowing $3.8 million over 20 years at 4 percent interest would cost taxpayers about 57 cents per $1,000 of equalized valuation annually, business manager Pat Miller said. For example, the owner of a $200,000 home would pay an extra $108 each year.


Administrators will seek “additional clarification” at the Monday, Dec. 19, board meeting about what the approved plan means for the 2012-13 school year, Lutzke said.


As Lutzke understands Monday’s decision:


n An approved referendum in April might result in a school closure for next year, but the issue wasn’t discussed in detail Monday. Board President Troy Knudson said after the meeting the board could revisit the idea of closing one school because the district would be committed to a centralized campus.


“You don’t know that there’s an end in sight,” if one school were closed now without that commitment, he said.


-- A failed referendum in April would mean portable classrooms at Orfordville for next year and Footville and Newark would be closed.


-- If a referendum isn’t on the ballot until November, “I am of the understanding that we will maintain the status quo next year,” Lutzke said.


If all three elementary schools remain open next year, the district won’t realize any savings toward its estimated $500,000 deficit for next year.


The district will be looking to make changes to its health and dental insurance to save money, Lutzke said. Parkview will be meeting with other area school districts to explore the possibility of forming a health care cooperative, he said.


“We’re going to have to look at that real hard,” he said after Monday’s meeting.


The district already has received some retirement notifications, so some of those positions might not be filled, he said.


Administrators also are looking at multi-grade classrooms at Newark, which might allow the district to reduce staff, he said.



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