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Is Woods going to have a referendum election?



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August 06, 2013 | 12:06 PM
GENEVA —A gym, extra classrooms and storage space.

Those are three reasons why Woods School Board members are talking about building an addition, District Administrator Ed Brzinski said in a Friday phone interview.

But to build an addition, possibly off the southern side of the building at the corner of Highway 50 and Snake Road, the school board will need approval from district voters.

The board is expected to decide whether to go to referendum Wednesday, Aug. 14.

The regular board meeting is 5:30 p.m., and the district's annual meeting starts at 6 p.m. Agendas for the meetings have not been posted as of Monday, but Brzinski said the board will probably talk about the referendum during the regular meeting.

It's still too early to talk about several key details of what the board may want to do with the school, he said.

The only official action by the board has been to hire architect Bill Henry of Kehoe-Henry and Associates, Elkhorn.

Brzinski said the board hired Henry for $8,000. He will design preliminary sketches and provide more figures, Brzinski said.

This should be done prior to the Aug. 14 meetings.

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"All we've seen so far are some sketches," Brzinski said. "Part of it is we're trying to nail some numbers."

One figure that doesn't need to be nailed down is the prior debt incurred by the district in 2001 to renovate the school.

Brzinski said the district still owes $1.29 million, but 2014 "is a good year to refinance that debt."

But numbers aside, Woods School is at capacity, he said. They have about 200 students. Less than half attend Woods through the state's Open Enrollment program, and "we can't take any more," Brzinski said.

As a result, teachers have had to rely on creatively using the space that's available.

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Brzinski said it's not enough.

"It would be nice to have something that's just better for the kids," he said.

Flipping space

The gym isn't just a gym.

"Three or four times a day, we flip that gym," Brzinski said, adding that the space is routinely used as a cafeteria, an auditorium, and even as a classroom.

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"This past year, we had one of our science classes meet in the gym," Brzinski said.

Some teachers at Woods are "working out of a cart," he said. Part of the board's discussion involves creating extra classroom space for them.

"We also need a dedicated science room," Brzinski said. "That's part of the issue. And we need a special needs resource area. Right now, we've converted almost all the space we can to education space."

Storage space also is a concern. He said the school took one storage area and converted it into a reading resource room last year. But Brzinski also made the case that the school's current gym isn't entirely adequate.

He said it is a nice design, but the ceilings are too low — so much so that when other volleyball teams have to play Woods, they don't want to hold games in their gym.

"It has served us well in the past, but it's just not adequate for our needs," Brzinski said.

Going public

Things commonly discussed when a school board approaches the possibility of a referendum election — project specs, cost estimates, a timeline — aren't finalized yet, according to Brzinski.

It's still early, he said.

But, according to Brzinski, if the board pursues a referendum project, it likely would use land already owned by the district.

"We don't have a ton of it, but we want to stay on our existing footprint," Brzinski said.

Despite not throwing around any cost estimates Friday, he said the district's outstanding debt would be "wrapped into" this proposed project.

Brzinski also said there would be more open discussions about it in the near future.

"If the board decides to move forward (with the project), I would plan on having at least two public forums, maybe one a month," Brzinski said.

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