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Bay probes problems with elementary school

District focuses on efficiency

June 30, 2010 | 08:35 AM
Williams Bay — Architect Bill Henry presented to the Williams Bay School Board at a special meeting June 21, a focused theme — efficiency.

Due to growing concerns about the aging elementary school, which is nearly 100 years old, Henry, of Kehoe-Henry Associates, conducted a study to determine the best renovation concepts for the school and help the board decide whether they choose a complete makeover or a new school altogether.

Based on Henry's recommendations, improvements including expanded rooms and wheelchair accessibility would cost more than $8.5 million, with a future expansion to combine student services and the main office and add handicap accessibility to the gym entrance and kindergarten rooms running the final possible total to $11 million.

"The proposed $8.5 million plan is significantly cheaper than building a new school," Henry said in an interview June 23. "It will be a much more efficient design."

District Administrator Fred Vorlop said the School Board currently is focused on other issues at this time and a decision on how to move forward to deal with the elementary school issues will not occur anytime soon.

Vorlop said June 23, that future plans for the elementary school are simply in the introductory stages.

"It was part one of a comprehensive study of the school," he said. "We still need to thoroughly review the study. Eventually, a second study, which hasn't been approved yet, would involve reviewing the grounds including parking and traffic flow issues.

"We haven't even discussed timelines yet because we are too preoccupied with referendum issues. Nothing would happen until at least a couple years."

The key finding from Henry was the lack of efficiency at the current facility. According to Henry, 42 percent of the elementary school building consists of "leftovers" such as hallways and corridors. Henry said a modern facility should only have 30 percent of its space "non-usable."

While Vorlop said the school is in need of improved utilities among other things, he said the building has served the district well. He said the main goal is to compete with other modern school districts at a reasonable price.

"We want to be comparable to other school districts in a cost-effective way," Vorlop said. "The board is initiating the process and doing its due diligence on the matter."

Perhaps the most telling stat Henry noted was the square footage per student of the current facility. According to the study, a modern elementary school should use between 150 and 170 square feet per student based on maximum capacity. However, the elementary school currently has about 267 square feet per student with the existing enrollment of 311. If filled to capacity (388 students), the school would provide 214 square feet per student. Both figures are considerably larger than ideal, Henry said.

"There's a lot of room, but not a lot of usable room," he added. "That extra space must be cleaned and maintained, and that brings more costs."

Vorlop said a reason for the square footage issue is the district's emphasis on maintaining smaller class sizes. But he admitted some things are "superfluous."

"Locker rooms are something you wouldn't expect to see in an elementary school," he said.

Currently, the school is about 83,000 square feet, roughly 34 square feet per student too much. Specific upgrades would include handicap-accessible bathrooms, replacement of many windows, adding space from the music room to the library and insulation.

Whereas the most recent addition came 14 years ago, which was a connecting ramp from the lobby to the gym, there have been eight additions since the 1916 opening. In 1991, central windows were installed, the first addition in 25 years. The locker rooms and band room are nearly 50 years old, and the gym is 55 years old.

Renovations or a new school aren't the only options. Vorlop said consolidation is another way to go, but the process is rather arduous.

"It's not simple," he said. "It would have to be with another K-12 district. However, a decade ago, there was considerable talk about consolidation."

The closest K-12 district would be Big Foot.

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