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Westby Area School District celebrates referendum projects with groundbreaking ceremonies
Westby Area School District

Westby Area School District celebrates referendum projects with groundbreaking ceremonies

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Friday’s rain didn’t stop the Westby Area School District from celebrating the construction start of their district-wide school improvement projects with groundbreaking ceremonies at Coon Valley Elementary School and Westby Middle/High School.

District Superintendent Steve Michaels said planning for the referendum projects started two years ago with facilities planning efforts by the board of education and district administration using a comprehensive facilities assessment, a district-wide community survey, and numerous staff and community engagement opportunities.

Gerald Roethel, board of education president, said the November 2020 referendum passed with 60% of the vote. He thanked the community for its support of the projects that they indicated they wanted.

Michaels said there will be many changes to routines at both Coon Valley Elementary School and Westby Area High School during construction. He said the main entrances for both schools will not be available. “The building staff has been busy making adjustments.”

During the Coon Valley ceremony, Principal Mike Berg said it will be “neat” to watch the construction as it happens, and the projects will be good for safety and will provide more space at the school.

“It makes me feel good about the longevity of this school,” Berg said. “It’s going to be awesome when it’s done.”

School board member Bob Kerska, who attended Coon Valley Elementary School when it was located by the Lutheran church and graduated from there in 1958, said construction of the current building had already begun.

“Coon Valley has the distinction of having the oldest facilities in the Westby Area School District,” Kerska said. “The community is committed to keeping it viable and keep it going hopefully for years to come.”

In an email following the ceremony, Kerska said desks and other supplies were moved into the “new” CVES from the old building during Christmas break of the 1948-1959 school year and students started school in January of 1959 in the new building.

During the ceremony in Westby, high school Principal Bob Bothe showed a painting of what the building looked like in the 1960s and a more recent photograph of a rainbow arching above the building.

“The new future is coming,” Bothe said. “It’s been 60 years since a major project has been done at the school.”

Michaels said everything that happens at school is because of the support of the community.

Representatives from Bray Architects and Miron Construction also spoke at the ceremonies. High school choir students sang the national anthem and high school band members performed the school song at both ceremonies.

Referendum information

The Westby area community supported the referendum, which approved $11.95 million in funding for district-wide safety, security and site improvements including secure entrances, ADA accessibility updates, building infrastructure and capital maintenance, tech ed renovations, and an addition and renovation of the greenhouse at Westby Area High School.

In November, voters in the school district approved two referendum questions for operational and capital funding focusing on these key areas of need:

Safety and security enhancements

Enhance secure entries at each school building to better control and monitor visitor access.

Infrastructure upgrades

Upgrade inefficient building systems (plumbing, heating and ventilation, electrical) that have exceeded their useful life, and replace aging roof sections.

Educational space updates

Update high school family and consumer science as well as career and technical education spaces and expand and renovate the existing greenhouse to better support curriculum.

Site improvements

Improve site traffic flow including designated drop-off/pick-up lanes at the high school, increase the number of parking spaces, and address stormwater challenges.

Design planning has been underway since last fall. Construction begins soon and will continue through the summer of 2022.

Projects include:

  • High school secure entry and main office addition;
  • Middle school secure entry enhancements;
  • High school family and consumer science renovation;
  • Band room renovation for ADA;
  • Career and technical education renovation;
  • Greenhouse addition and renovation;
  • Coon Valley Elementary secure entry and main office addition;
  • Coon Valley Conference Room renovation.

Angela Cina can be reached at


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Vernon County Times editor

Angie Cina is editor of the Vernon County Times. Contact her at 608-637-5616.

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