Tags: Geneva Linn
October 01, 2013 | 03:27 PMGENEVA — Everyone agreed on one thing.
They love Woods School.
About 20 citizens showed up last Wednesday at the first hearing about a proposed $5.55 million building project for the school, which is located off of Highway 50 a few miles west of Lake Geneva.
The project would cost taxpayers $56 for a $100,000 home. A referendum on the subject will be on the ballot Nov. 5. Another forum will be held Oct. 17 between 6 and 8 p.m.
This one drew citizens and parents with a variety of interests.
The most outspoken opponent of the plan was Daniel Bishop, an assistant professor at Concordia College, who expressed concern that the project would end up costing taxpayers too much because it was based on a student population that was supplemented by open enrollment.
“It is not based on a changing community,” he said, noting statistics that indicated that both the area and the local student population has remained flat.
“We came here because it was a small school,” said Bishop, who has children at Woods.
He said the concerns outlined by the school facilities committee could be resolved with a smaller expenditure.
“I just want it known that not everyone is in favor of this,” Bishop told a reporter.
School board members indicated the expansion is designed to help current students.
“Why should my kid be taught in a closet?” said committee member Eric Chapman.
Several board members said open enrollment will not have an impact on class size as that is set by the school board. But it was acknowledged that future school boards could change the current thinking on the subject
Bishop and the others who spoke expressed affection for the school. They just had different perceptions on the best way to continue that legacy.
The project would pay for a 22,000-square-foot addition to house six classrooms, a new gym and more storage space. It would also increase security at the school. Administrator Ed Brzinski, members of the school board and representatives of Scherrer Construction, who would be doing the project should the referendum pass, answered questions.
They laid out their rationale for the school and its history:
n The last expansion occurred in 2001.
n About 18 months ago, a school facilities committee was formed that included staff and community members. Their charge was to look at concerns regarding space limitations and safety.
n The goal was to have one classroom for each grade level as well as accommodating “world languages” and helping those in need of academic intervention on both ends of the educational spectrum.
n Currently there is no dedicated science room. It’s shared with social studies.
n The gym has earned the name cafitornasium (cafeteria, auditorium, gymnasium) because it has to be rearranged at least four times a day to accommodate various uses. The current gym was built in 1965. Teams don’t want to play there because of how dated it is and because of safety concerns.
n This building proposal would eliminate the need for further expansion for at least 20 years.
n Since rooms are used for multi-purposes, teachers have no dedicated place to plan or keep their teaching materials.
n The current entrance allows free rein to the building, which is seen as a concern especially in this era of school shooting sprees.
n The proposed project would include air conditioning which would allow for more summer programs.
n The expansion would cost about $177 a square foot, which board members said was comparable or lower than other recent school building projects at area schools.
n It should also resolve some concerns about the amount of parking and turnaround space for buses and other vehicles coming off of Highway 50. It was estimated that 24 parking stalls would be added and Brzinski said Highway 50 concerns will also be lessened as a result of the nearly-completed Highway 50 construction project.
n The building project would be completed by the start of the 2014-2015 school year, Brzinski said.
Others who commented included a senior citizen with no children, who explained her support for the project by saying a good school will enhance property values.
“We want a school that mirrors an attractive area,” she said.
But another senior citizen thought differently saying, “Social Security didn’t give me an extra $56.”
Several people wondered if Woods School could merge with Lake Geneva’s district. The board members responded by saying that such a merger would actually increase taxes because Lake Geneva’s levy is nearly twice that of Woods School.