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Administrator: Reek must repair brick


District voters will decide fate of $3.9 million project



DOLLARS AND SENSE? Perhaps the fate of Reek's April 5 referendum is ultimately going to be decided by voters when they ask themselves, "Can I afford this?" On Wednesday, March 9, Reek Administrator Lillian Henderson provided some projections which indicate the project will increase the district tax rate by 32 cents. A Reek School District resident also pays taxes to the state, Walworth County, Gateway Technical College and their local municipality. But this year, the district's rate is $1.84 per $1,000 of assessed value. If the projections are correct, next year's rate would become $2.16. On a rate of $2.16, the owner of a $200,000 home would pay $432 to the Reek School District. However, Henderson said the proposed state budget by Gov. Scott Walker could change the extent of this impact. She said with the new public school revenue limits called for in the proposed state budget, the tax impact "wouldn't be as great."
March 16, 2011 | 09:19 AM
Linn — Lillian Henderson's school is literally crumbling. Back in November, she picked up pieces of brick which lined the perimeter of Reek School.

During an interview Wednesday, March 9, Henderson said this is the main reason why her School Board voted to go to referendum.

On April 5, Reek School District voters will decide whether the board can proceed with a $3.9 million remodeling project.

"I don't think we'd be doing this if we didn't have this big problem with the brick," Henderson said.

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She said Mark Polyock, of Lakes Brick and Block, Zenda, recently brought in Owen Landsverk, a building inspector with the Wisconsin Department of Administration.

According to Henderson, Landsverk determined the school's brick work is shifting. He told her once the brick work starts shifting, it isn't long before the steel framework will begin shifting.

That's when the problems will become more serious.

"We have to fix this building no matter what," Henderson said.

But that's up to district voters to decide. There are several other aspects of the remodeling project, but the brunt of it — or more than $1.31 million — is to repair the brick and replace the aging roof and inefficient windows of the school.

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Henderson said this is her first referendum election. She said she wouldn't want to predict the outcome, but the current state of the economy "is working against us."

"These are tough economic times for people," Henderson said. "I understand, with asking people to dig deeper into their pockets, it just isn't an ideal time for that. But I feel if we don't do this now, we will be concerned the condition will deteriorate and it will cost more to fix. Whenever I put off maintenance in my house, it costs more later."

Time to remodel

The brick problems and other factors which have caused safety concerns are located in the 1993 addition and in some parts where it adjoins the 1939 portion of the school.

This prompted the Reek School Board to bring in Miron Construction Co., Neenah; Eppstein Uhen Architects, Milwaukee; and Robert W. Baird and Co., Milwaukee. Henderson said the builders recently completed an addition to the Sharon School District.

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At Reek, the problems aren't limited to the flaking brick face.

Another concern is aimed at the deteriorating windows.

"Earlier this year, you could actually see daylight through the window frame in the guidance office," Henderson said. "It's totally rotting out. Also, the windows are not energy-efficient. They were residential windows and they should have never been put in a school."

According to a referendum flier being circulated by the school, the energy-efficient improvements called for in the referendum project include all new exterior windows, a complete replacement of the roof, lighting controls and the existing mechanical system in the school.

This is projected to save the district 20 percent in annual energy use.

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Some other changes are scheduled as part of the project to make better use of space, Henderson said.

She said the current cafeteria is one of the school classrooms. If the referendum project is approved, more than $248,000 will be used to repurpose the cafeteria into usable classroom space. The cafeteria then would be moved into the gym.

"The current lunch room is beyond capacity and needs multiple exits for students," Henderson said. "This year ... the kindergartners through fourth-graders are the larger group. (There are) about 60 kids in there at one time. Sometimes, it's a little higher than that."

She said they would use a curtain to block off part of the gym to be used for lunch. The referendum project calls for purchasing new and "proper" cafeteria tables and to remodel the concession area to provide a "code-compliant lunch serving space."

Henderson said the current cafeteria space could be put to better use.

"Right now, we don't have a conference room and we don't have a big enough space for special education, so we can shift that into this room," she said.

Henderson said the special education program operates out of a "science closet."

"It's an actual room with a window, but it's almost like a galley kitchen," she said.

Security

More than $227,000 of the referendum project is to reconfigure the school office and implement other measures to create a more secure entrance.

Currently, people who enter are required to press a button to page the office. It is up to Reek office staff to decide to hit another button which unlocks the main door.

But Henderson said there are limitations to the current system.

"We can see who we are letting in, but some people are letting other people in," she said. "By the time we leave the office to see who's there, they can already (travel) up the stairs. There's a stairwell between us and the main door."

Henderson said there have been a few issues with this system. She said one person allowed someone to enter the school, someone who had an issue with a parent in the district. This person found that parent's child and addressed this issue with the student.

"It's these kinds of things that people worry about," Henderson said.

She said there also have been custody disputes which have played out within the school. However, Henderson said the proposed office changes should address these concerns, which were brought up by Reek's special building committee.

"This way, whoever has business will come in through the office," she said.

There are other aspects of the referendum project, including site work to correct drainage around the building, building a second-floor bathroom which complies with the Americans With Disabilities Act and other mechanical and plumbing upgrades.

But Henderson said her main concern is the brick.

And what if the referendum fails?

"I suspect the board will look at ways to cut back ... the scope of the project because they have to fix the brick regardless," Henderson said.

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