As a new school year begins, the rules for who is eligible to play sports varies widely depending on where you attend school. In Beloit, questions have arisen about recent policy changes.
Janesville School District Athletic Director Jim McClowry said students must be passing all their classes to be eligible to participate in athletics. There is no minimum GPA requirement, McClowry noted.
“If a student has one failing grade, they have the opportunity over five school days to gain eligibility on the sixth day,” McClowry said. “If they’re failing more than one course, they’re ineligible to participate for 15 days.”
McClowry added that no one has yet challenged Janesville’s policy. All coaches have a data system where they monitor students, grades, attendance and behavior, he said.
Meanwhile, the Beloit School Board and new athletic and activities director Jon Dupuis discussed at a recent meeting part of the athletic code that requires student-athletes to have a GPA of 2.0 or higher to participate the subsequent semester.
Dupuis questioned some of the policy’s language.
“I would like to continue to have that conversation with head coaches, administration and the board,” Dupuis said. “We can come up with some verbiage that is holding all students to high expectations, finding ways that we can support our students and keep them involved and go from there.”
Beloit School Board members and Dupuis said they’ll continue to discuss athletic eligibility at their next policy committee meeting Sept. 7. However, school board administrative assistant Michelle Shope said she is unsure if the topic will be up for discussion that night.
Questions raised by a reporter on specifics of the district’s previous student-athlete eligibility policy in place prior to June, were not immediately addressed.
Dupuis said it’s his understanding that the policy change that now requires student-athletes to have a 2.0 GPA the semester before participating in sports was adopted June 7.
Dupuis started in his role July 1, and in the weeks after that, questions came up about the change at a parent/player meeting.
Dupuis said there is a lot of inconsistency between school districts on grade eligibility for athletes.
“If you look right now at our governing board for athletics, the requirement essentially says a student-athlete must be a full-time student and have received no more than one failing grade,” Dupuis said. “That’s the requirement from the WIAA (Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association), but every school district has a different requirement.”
In the Beloit Turner School District, student-athletes are eligible if they are passing all their classes and have a 1.5 GPA.
Athletic Director Andy Coldren tracks students’ grades through progress reports and report cards. Students who have an incomplete grade are treated the same as those who receive a failing grade.
“If a student is failing, they have a week to get that grade up,” Coldren explained. “Then at that point, they have to carry around an academic card and the teacher has to sign it saying if they’re either passing or have a satisfactory plan in place to get the grade squared away.”
Students must carry these academic cards around until they have at least a C grade.
A student with more than one failing grade has to sit out games for 15 school days, Coldron said. About three years ago, the district added to its policy that if students have a plan to bring their grade up, they can regain eligibility.
Nancy D. Allen
Raymond F. Brost
Susan Ann Blumer
Roger L. Carlson
Mildred Mary Fenrich
William F. “Bill” Heaslip
Timothy J. “Tim” Hitchcock
Alfred James Lembrich
Guy E. Onwiler
Phillis D. (Unbehaun) Piekarski
Heather (Cowie) Szydlo
It'll be a few weeks before the city gets a look at some possible cost cutting options, but city officials and private stakeholders remained committed this to the idea of building an ice arena and conference center at Uptown Janesville as consultants work to shave millions off a new $60 million estimated price tag.
Designs for the Woodman’s Sports and Convention Center, a proposed two-sheet ice arena and flexible convention and sports space, are still only about 30% complete. But latest cost estimate shows that inflation has driven up the project’s prospective cost, adding another $25 million to a preliminary $35 million budget set earlier this year, according to estimates released last week to an ad hoc city committee.
During a special city council meeting Tuesday night that included city administration, a private booster group for the arena and representatives from consulting firm Kraus-Anderson, council President Paul Benson suggested city staff should review the city’s borrowing capacity in light of a recent boost in net new construction in Janesville.
That would be an early step to see if the city could absorb more borrowing than the potential $15 million that city finance officials estimated a few years ago would keep costs of such a project to about $25 a year for the average city taxpayer.
Right now, $15 million in city borrowing wouldn’t even cover the prospective overrun on costs. Kraus-Anderson, which the city has committed payment to as part of a bigger, $2 million consulting package, is now trying to trim the massive overrun via “value engineering”—a surgical rethinking of how costs for the facility could be scaled back in design and construction. To date, Kraus-Anderson has done about $10,000 in consulting work, including crunching numbers on a set of overall project designs that still are only about 30% complete.
Other city council members, including Dave Marshick, Michael Jackson and Heather Miller, said Tuesday that they've cooled in their support of the ice arena in light of the new cost estimates.
In a memo this week to an ad hoc city design committee for the facility, a city official wrote that Kraus-Anderson is being asked to return by Sept. 20 with a list of suggested cuts.
Kraus-Anderson consultant Mike Hinderman called the process “deflating the balloon,” saying that along with a forensic look at design and construction cuts, the goal would be to pare back parts of a three-tier contingency, possible additional "soft costs" for design and construction written into the project's bottom line. Those costs make up about $6.5 million, or 15 percent of the project's overall, estimated sticker price.
But city staffers are cautioning Kraus-Anderson not to diminish the final product so much that the Woodman's Center's business and operational models would be hobbled coming out of the gates.
“The city seeks value engineering items that do not conflict with recommendations of the business plan or the original intent of the project,” Public Works Director Mike Payne wrote in a memo to committee members. “The city also believes it is important, at this point, that value engineering items do not reduce the useful life of the building or critical systems to ensure the long term success of the facility.”
In a long, multi-pronged defense of the project, city officials, including Neighborhood Services Director Jennifer Petruzzello, on Tuesday showed economic impact estimates that the arena could bring in more than $10 million a year in new spending.
That would pair with as many as “170” new jobs that would result from a boost in foot traffic into hotels, restaurants and retail centers along the Milton Avenue corridor, Petruzzello said.
A private group of fundraisers called the Friends of the Indoor Sports Complex has raised about $4.2 million, still well short of the $9 million the group hoped to raise under the lower earlier cost estimate.
Private stakeholders also indicated Tuesday that commitments, such as $2 million from Woodman’s for naming rights, would hinge on whether the final proposal matches up with earlier plans, including those for two sheets of ice.
One potential cost-cutting measure includes keeping both ice sheets in the plan but leaving one as a “shell” to be completed later, consultants and city officials said in a committee meeting last week. It’s still not clear how much money such a move might save, nor is it clear whether such cuts would be embraced by the city of Janesville, private stakeholders, or donors who've committed with the understanding the arena would have two ice sheets.
The city has not released a short list of potential design changes that Kraus-Anderson might use to estimate potential savings.
Another moving target for the project is public funding. The earlier $35 million project budget also built in an assumption the city might garner $9 million in federal and state grants.
But one person with an interest in the project, Bill McCoshen, said Tuesday a major new source of potential public funding could come if the state releases an additional share of COVID-19 relief funding for the project and if Rock County would contribute $2.5 million in sales tax money.
McCoshen is president of the Janesville Jets junior hockey team, which would be a primary tenant of the facility, and he is commissioner of the North American Hockey League in which the Jets play.
McCoshen, also a longtime Madison political strategist, said Forward Janesville officials intend to meet with Gov. Tony Evers’ staff in Janesville later this week. The purpose of that meeting would be to discuss the release of what he called an "ask" for $10 million of additional federal American Rescue Plan Act funds to help build the ice arena.
McCoshen said the governor’s office continues to hold more than $1 billion in undesignated federal funding that is earmarked for COVID-19 relief. He said local boosters will try to convince Evers’ team that the inflation reflected in new cost estimates for the facility is directly tied to supply chain vagaries that arose during the pandemic.
He said that the city could know by mid-September if it is in a strong position for the additional ARPA funding, which Evers has sole discretion to release.
The city council still must approve the project, and it likely won’t see a more fully galvanized cost estimates until November or December. By that time, the city would be a few months from deciding whether to go ahead with the project and to bid it out for construction to start in 2023.
This report has been altered from a previous version to reflect a total amount the city has committed to consulting costs for the Woodman's Center plans. The city has paid one consultant, Kraus-Anderson, about $10,000 for its work so far.
The city of Janesville hopes the gargoyles in Wilson Elementary School’s staircases, Adams Elementary School’s “Enter to Learn” stonework, the ornate door carvings inside Roosevelt Elementary and the Colonial Revival design of Washington Elementary School are enough to land its four oldest operating school buildings on the National Register of Historic Places.
The first step is submitting grant applications to the Wisconsin Historical Society by December to hire consultants to investigate the schools’ history and compile a case for adding them to the 2,450 other nationally recognized places in Wisconsin.
The four schools in question all were built in the 1930s. Each was built with aspects of the Arts and Crafts movement in mind, which emphasized hand craftsmanship over the Industrial Revolution. Adams’ initial construction and additions at Roosevelt were funded by Public Works Administration money and labor after The Great Depression.
School district spokesperson Patrick Gasper said district administrators approve of the city’s plan but that otherwise, the district has limited involvement in the application process.
Janesville is one of 76 municipalities in the state allowed to apply for grant funding from the historical society. It last successfully added the Whiton-Parker House—home to the state’s first chief justice, Edward V. Whiton—to the national register in December 2015.
Jason Tish, a certified local government and preservation educator for the Wisconsin Historical Society, said having places deemed historic adds to a municipality’s identity.
“Historic places—places that carry the history and the heritage of that community—are important for identity more so than building a new Walmart or McDonald’s,” Tish said.
The process for adding buildings to the National Register of Historic Places can be arduous and competitive.
First, eligible cities have to apply for grant funding from the Wisconsin Historical Society to pay a consultant to prepare the application. The Historical Society only gives about $120,000 for this purpose per year, Tish said.
Should the city receive a grant, the application process would cost between $6,000 and $8,000 per building. A consultant would then start digging into the history of the building, city senior planner Brian Schweigel said.
“It’s much more extensive than simply writing a letter to the state to say, ‘Well, my home was built in 1901, it’s 121 years old now and it’s worthy of listing in the National Register as a result,’” Schweigel said.
Consultants research two main aspects of a building’s history: What its significance to the area is and whether its architecture relates to the time period it was built. They would likely dig into historical records from newspapers and other sources that detail the city’s public education system and analyze the buildings themselves, Tish said.
What Adams, Roosevelt, Washington and Wilson elementary schools have going for them include their age, the Colonial Revival architectural elements that are part of the buildings and the generations of students who have attended, Schweigel said.
“Certainly, there’s architectural elements to these buildings that I think you wouldn’t see in a newer school that’s being built today,” Schweigel said. “It would be a combination of all those reasons, and maybe consultants would identify some other things that I’m not even aware of in terms of providing that justification.”
If granted, the federal distinction would have few practical effects on the district.
Because the buildings are publicly owned, the district wouldn’t receive any state or federal incentives for maintaining the facilities the way a private owner would. Should the district decide to sell off a building to a private owner in the future, such incentives would kick in for the private buyer.
The federal distinction also wouldn’t prohibit the district from making upgrades to the buildings. It also would not prevent the district from demolishing a building, but a state law would require the school board to consult with the Wisconsin Historical Society before doing so, Tish said.
He said the main purpose of the law is to delay a sale or a demolition so historians have time to document it.
Restrictions for how a property owner may repair or renovate historic buildings in the future only come at the local level, Schweigel said. He said the city has no plans to limit work that could be done on the schools should they eventually be added to the register.
Of Janesville’s 13 historic districts, only the Courthouse Hill Historic District has restrictions requiring property owners to ask permission before doing work on the exterior. The restrictions are partly driven by the significance of the homes in the 30-block district, which in the years after Janesville’s founding in the mid-19th century were owned by people influential in the birth and growth of the city, including early mayors, state legislators and businessmen. A handful of other downtown buildings also have restrictions, Schweigel said.