After nearly two years of consideration, the Clinton School Board unanimously approved placing a sweeping facilities referendum on the April 2 ballot Wednesday night.
The $41.9 million referendum calls for shuttering the district’s timeworn elementary and middle schools—which are each more than 60 years old—and building a new 4K through sixth-grade campus on district-owned land next to Clinton High School.
Seventh and eighth grades would move to the high school building, which is about 60 percent occupied and would be renovated. The tax impact would be an additional $22 a month on a home valued at $100,000.
A new 4K through sixth-grade campus would accommodate 600 students and cost $32.8 million to build. Upgrades at the high school, which would include a new roof, gym floor and asphalt repairs, would cost $3.6 million. Costs for security enhancements and interior renovations at the high school are estimated at $1.9 million.
The board’s vote comes after years of facilities studies and community meetings on potential referendums. Board members last year tabled a similar $39.9 million referendum that would have been on the November ballot after responses to a community survey showed residents were split on the idea.
Superintendent Jim Brewer said Wednesday that the board believed a November referendum would have passed but decided to wait, take its time and “listen to the constituents.” He said the board has done its due diligence and “absolutely” believes the referendum will pass in April.
School Board President Ken Luety reminded the crowd of about 13 that the board has been deliberating on a referendum for “a long time” and that years of planning came in advance of Wednesday’s vote.
Bob Butler, the district’s director of facilities and transportation, said the referendum’s language gives the district some wiggle room for razing the elementary school. While the referendum includes the new campus, the board will determine later whether it will also tear down the elementary school, which would cost just under $1 million, Butler said.
Brewer said the middle school will almost certainly be razed. He said the district would be open to working with the village of Clinton or selling the elementary school property.
Butler said the elementary and middle schools no longer meet “educational adequacy.” He said the middle school has concrete walls and that both buildings have asbestos, lack security and are not ADA compliant. He said each building’s heating pipes are crumbling and each has high groundwater.
Last April, Gov. Tony Evers, then the state schools superintendent, toured the district’s elementary and middle schools as part of his Advisory Council on Rural Schools, Libraries and Communities. Evers told The Gazette that Clinton is known as “a good, high-achieving school district, a district that has really energetic, great kids.
“And look at these facilities,” Evers said, implying the district’s success has come despite the aging school buildings.