Data sought on Janesville School District buildings

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Wednesday, April 18, 2012
— If the Janesville School Board ever wants to change how it delivers education, it would need a good idea of what could be done with its buildings.

And while school officials know a lot about the schools, the district has never done a districtwide study of classroom capacities and building conditions and mechanical systems, said Greg Ardrey, chairman of the board's finance/buildings and grounds committee.

"If I ask a board member—nobody knows what we have," Ardrey said.

Ardrey proposed a districtwide facilities study at the committee's meeting Tuesday. No votes were taken, but Karl Dommershausen liked the idea, as did new board member Deborah Schilling.

If the board ever wanted to increase class sizes or reconfigure the grades housed in each building, such a study would be needed, Ardrey said.

Ardrey led a study last year when the board was considering the closing or "repurposing" of one of the district's 12 elementary schools.

"I believe we need to look comprehensively at every building," Ardrey said.

The district owns 17 traditional school buildings and leases commercial space for two charter schools and for storage.

An architectural review—either paid for or donated by local professionals—should be a part of the study, Ardrey said.

District officials know their buildings, but a fresh pair of eyes could spot things that those who use the buildings daily might not, Ardrey said.

"The more information you have, the better choices you make," Schilling said.

Any review would find that the district is doing what is needed to maintain its buildings, district maintenance supervisor Dave Leeder said.

The district's continuing efforts to find alternatives to leased buildings was also discussed at the meeting.

Not discussed at the meeting but potentially a part of a study would be how digital technology might change classroom capacities and uses. Internet-connected tablets and smart phones, for example, are expected to replace class trips to computer labs.

The agenda included discussion of replacing Franklin Middle School's boiler, estimated to cost $1 million, said district Chief Financial Officer Keith Pennington.

Dommershausen said he would not vote for any replacement if the potential for installing a geothermal system was not explored. Ardrey and Schilling said they wanted geothermal explored, too.

Ardrey said, however, that any decision would have to look at costs and benefits of competing technology. He is a manager/engineer for Alliant Energy.

The board backed away from geothermal when the high schools were renovated in 2007-08 after a consultant said it would be cost-prohibitive.

The Franklin boiler is old but functioning properly and is not in danger of failing, Pennington said. But a new heating system would be much more efficient.

Last updated: 8:07 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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