The Milton School District believes a new approach to solving facility concerns—making additions to six of the district’s seven buildings instead of building a new high school—could convince the public to approve a referendum on the district’s third attempt to do so since 2016.

The district hosted an open house Tuesday night to answer questions from community members about the $59.9 million facilities referendum.

Representatives from each of the district’s seven schools, district staff, PRA Architects and JP Cullen were available to answer questions following a brief presentation. About 75 people were in attendance.

Community members at recent school board meetings have expressed strong opinions both for and against the referendum. Tuesday night’s crowd showed there are some people who are still on the fence about how they will vote.

Emily Kerl, a retiree and district resident, said she welcomed the opportunity to ask district staff questions about the referendum one-on-one. She also said the new plan to renovate several school buildings made more sense than building a high school.

Kerl has an 11-year-old grandson who attends Northside Intermediate School. Her grandson has special needs, and she was pleased to hear the referendum would include Americans With Disabilities Act upgrades at most schools and a special education wing in the middle school.

Casey Rusch-Weiland, a special education teacher at Milton Middle School, said she teaches in a classroom that is divided in half. Her students, many with sensory sensitivities, struggle to focus in close quarters.

Students with special needs often need physical or occupational therapists to teach them skills such as typing, tying their shoes, brushing their teeth and other life skills because parents aren’t always equipped to teach those skills at home, Rusch-Weiland said.

There is not enough space at the middle school for therapists to work with students individually, leaving them to teach in hallways or converted closets. This leaves students sometimes feeling embarrassed or isolated, Rusch-Weiland said.

As a retiree, Kerl had concerns about her family’s taxes going up while living on a fixed income. She wants to remain in her home for as long as she can and provide for her grandson, who lives with Kerl and her husband, she said.

If passed, the referendum would add $164 in taxes per $100,000 of fair market property value per year, according to tax impact documents from Baird, a financial advisory company.

Kerl said the tax impact was less than she expected and that she would discuss it with her husband before making her decision to vote.

Other residents at the open house had questions similar to Kerl’s. Some were ardent referendum supporters, but most were people looking to learn more.

Superintendent Tim Schigur said adding to most district buildings instead of building a new high school seems to appeal to voters. Lowering the cost has also alleviated concerns from some taxpayers, he said.

The district will be adding additional information to its website based on questions asked Tuesday, Schigur said.

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