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Westby Area School District gathers facilities feedback from the community

Westby Area School District gathers facilities feedback from the community

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Giving feedback

Members of the public discuss and write down feedback at a facilities planning information session hosted by the Westby Area School District, Tuesday, Oct. 29.

The Westby Area School District held the first of three facilities planning information sessions on Tuesday, Oct. 29.

The purpose of the sessions is to gather community input for the district’s long-term Facilities Master Plan.

District Administrator Steve Michaels opened the session, which was held at the high school, by saying that years ago the community made a commitment to invest in facilities for the district’s students. In recent history, the Westby Elementary School was built in 1998, the Westby Area Middle School and fieldhouse was built in 2003 and the Westby Area Performing Arts Center was built in 2017. In addition, he said, the district made energy efficiency updates.

Michaels said there are four pillars. Pillar 1: Investing to get another 20 to 30 years for the district’s oldest buildings by addressing water runoff, roofs, HVAC systems, and the building envelope (for example, cracks in masonry); Pillar 2: Enhancing safety and security by securing entrances and making ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) enhancements; Pillar 3: Modernizing of instructional spaces to allow for flexile student work spaces to foster collaboration, project-based learning and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) activities throughout the schools; Pillar 4: Financial window of opportunity because of the retirement and restructuring of debt.

Brian Brewer of Robert W. Baird & Co. said because of the retirement and restricting of debt, “we believe that this can be accomplished with minimal increases in taxes.”

Brewer presented on the difference of operational monies and capital funds. He said that in April 2018, the community supported a three-year operational referendum to sustain education programs and operate the district.

About 11 people attended the session on Oct. 29. Megan Prestebak of Miron Construction Co., Inc., asked them to break into two groups to discuss and write down their feedback on the four pillars, current facility conditions and proposed plans.

“We’re going to take the feedback and put it together in a document and on the school website, and it dictates what’s next for the district,” Prestebak said.

Clinton Selle with Bray Architects presented the facilities assessment. He said the full assessment is on the school district’s website. Selle said the floor plans were looked at, an engineering team looked at facilities systems and offered advisement, and civil engineers looked at runoff. The assessment included Coon Valley Elementary School, Westby Elementary School, Westby Area Middle School and Westby Area High School.

Selle also presented proposed plans, which include secure entrances for the schools. The current standard for secure entrances involves having visitors enter through the building entrance and pass directly through the main office before gaining access to the building. Depending on the facility, this requires varying amounts of construction and/or remodeling.

Examples of other projects in the proposed plans include converting two computer labs in the Westby Area Middle School to collaborative space by removing portions of existing corridor walls; and installing a new parking lot and using the current office as a collaboration lab at Westby Area High School.

If all of the four pillars are addressed, the estimated project cost is $19 million to $20 million. Brewer said it would be held as a capital referendum, which would allow the district to borrow to pay for costs. Michaels said if the School Board decides to go forward with a referendum, it would be held in conjunction with the 2020 presidential election.

The final interactive facilities planning information session is Tuesday, Nov. 12, from 6-8 p.m. at the high school. A planning information session was also held at Coon Valley Elementary School Tuesday, Nov. 5.

Following the Oct. 29 information session, Michaels said the feedback gathered at the three sessions will help construct a survey to get more input from the community to see if it wants to go forward with the project. The district-wide survey will come out in spring 2020.

For more information, visit the district website, www.westby-norse.org, or call the district office at 608-634-0101.

Angela Cina can be reached at angie.cina@lee.net.

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Vernon County Broadcaster editor

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

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