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Cautious optimism in the face of misinformation



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October 15, 2013 | 03:52 PM
GENEVA — “I think we have adequate support, but I’m cautiously optimistic,” Woods Administrator Ed Brzinski said during an Oct. 9 phone interview. “You never know what’s going to happen on Election Day.”

On Nov. 5, voters will either approve or deny the school board’s $5.55 million plan to add onto Woods School, N2575 Snake Road, and redesign its front entrance.

But before they decide the fate of the first Woods referendum project since 2001, people will have another chance to question those connected to the proposed project Thursday, Oct. 17, from 6 to 8 p.m., at a special school info meeting. The architect and construction company for the project also are expected to attend.

The first info meeting was Sept. 25, and Brzinski said it was a success.

“I think, of the 40 or so people that were there … only two people really seemed to be against the referendum,” he said. “I think, in general, it was a very positive night.”

However, Brzinski said there are misconceptions about the proposed project, which calls for adding almost 23,000 square feet; redesigning the front entrance so that visitors are routed through the front office; revamping the kitchen to facilitate a future hot lunch program; and refinancing the current school debt. That last part, Brzinski said in an email Monday, will save taxpayers $45,000.

A crucial motivating factor, though, has been space needs.

“From the school board’s point of view, these are needs the school has that haven’t been addressed in any of the previous renovations,” he said. “There’s still a need for meeting space, for classroom space for our programs.”

Brzinski said last week, while the school was administering the Measures of Academic Progress tests, “we had a class meet in the hallway outside the gymnasium.”

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One misconception, he said, is that’s because of all the open enrollment students attending Woods. Some have said the school is overcrowded because of the number of out-of-district students the board allows to go to school at Woods.

Through open enrollment, students can apply to attend a school outside of their district. However, Brzinski said, the school board sets the number of open enrollment students it would allow.

It’s possible that, in the near future, that number could decrease. Brzinski said a public school has to allow in-district students to attend. What could happen, if there are more in-district students, the board may reduce the number of students allowed to open enroll at Woods.

The in-district population is at an all-time high, Brzinski said.

“We’re currently at 124 resident students,” he said. “We’re a small school, so we do have families that move in and out. It’s hard, though. One or two families makes a big difference because our population is so small. But the general trend has been a slight increase (in student population).”

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He said 124 is just the number of resident students, and if you counted children who live in the Woods district but attend other schools — private or other out-of-district public schools — “we’re in the 130s.”

“There’s been a change in the demographics,” Brzinski said. “More families are moving back into the district. I would say the resident population has remained strong. Has it been a super rate of growth? No, but one or two families can throw that statistic off.”

Just how critical is the situation?

“I think, if more residents move into the district, that we’ll just lower the open enrollment numbers,” Brzinski said. “This is as big as we want to get.”

Numbers

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He also said he took “a little bit of an issue” with a statement printed from an opponent of the referendum project in a previous Regional News story about the Sept. 25 meeting.

Daniel Bishop said the concerns outlined by the school’s facilities committee could be met for less money. Brzinski said himself and the board “worked very hard to keep these costs in line with other projects in the area.”

Or, in some cases, the Woods project comes in at a lower cost, according to figures provided by architect Bill Henry, who designed the referendum project. He stated the cost, per square foot, of the proposed Woods project is $177.

According to Henry’s figures:

n The Eastview School gym project in Lake Geneva, which was about 7,500 square feet, cost $185 per square foot.

n The 60,000-square-foot Badger High School project, Lake Geneva, cost $186 per square foot.

n The 2007 addition to Star Center School, Bloomfield, cost $170 per square foot. The addition was 36,250 square feet.

n If the 2001 Woods addition were built today, it would cost an estimated $172 per square foot.

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