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Two out of three options not likely for Reek

School officials continue mulling consolidation, referendum, nix new building idea

WHAT'S WRONG WITH REEK SCHOOL? Most of the problems reside within the 1993 addition and where it adjoins the 1939 section of the building, including: - Deteriorating brick and windows. - Correcting water infiltration and exterior drainage. - Installing a storm water system. - Replacing roof and ceilings. Also, Reek officials and district residents have expressed a desire to see the school entrance become more secure. There were provisions in the failed $3.9 million referendum project which called for creating a more secure vestibule entrance and reconfiguring the front office area, as well as upgrades to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act. Also, there were plans to improve the parent/bus drop-off area outside. For more about this issue, visit www.lakegenevanews.net.
May 25, 2011 | 09:03 AM
Linn — Reek School's brick facade is falling apart. That's why the School Board proposed a $3.9 million renovation project to district voters in April. It failed by 24 votes.

It was a defeat Reek Administrator Lillian Henderson said left her and other school officials disappointed. But since then, the board and Henderson continue to weigh their options. Do they make another referendum attempt or do they try something else, like consolidate with another school district or build a new structure?

During an interview Wednesday, May 18, Henderson said some people want to see Reek combine with another school district. Also, an area architect recently proposed building a new school — one that would be unique to the area — and demolish the current one.

Henderson said the board is researching the consolidation idea, but it shot down the proposal by architect Tom Kincaid. She said the board "wants to do its due diligence" and is in the process of formulating some harder cost estimates on consolidating with the Traver or Fontana school districts.

But as the brick flakes continue to land in the grass around the most recent addition to Reek School, Henderson said she still thinks the board isn't done playing the referendum game.

"I think they most likely would go back to referendum because the neighboring districts have much higher mil rates," she said. "But (Reek board members) just want to look at the numbers and make sure it's accurate."

Will problems go away?

None of this changes the to-do list at Reek, which also includes replacing the windows and roof and creating a safer school entrance.

But fixing the brick is at the top of that list.

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Henderson said Owen Landsverk, a Wisconsin Department of Administration building inspector, recently determined the school's brick work is shifting. He told her once it starts shifting, it isn't long before the steel framework also begins shifting. The brick repair comprised more than $1.31 million of the failed referendum project.

The consolidation idea isn't new, and the two school districts mentioned during discussions about possible consolidation are Fontana and Traver. Earlier this year, Reek and Fontana school boards approached the idea. Reek and Traver school boards have yet to meet at the same table on it.

Supposing officials from two of these districts want to pursue consolidation, does this mean the Reek structure problems will just go away?

"The board knows it has to address problems with the brick or they will continue to get worse," she said. "But if the district were to consolidate and there would no longer be a need for this school building, the board would have to make other decisions, such as will it sell this building. They haven't really explored that. If we look at consolidation, what would we do with the current structure? That's the big question they're looking at now."

During an interview last month, Henderson explained why it might seem to make more sense to consolidate with Fontana or Traver, but there are issues which would need to be addressed.

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According to Henderson, there are concerns about housing students if Fontana and Reek districts combined.

"We discovered Fontana couldn't house all of our students and we couldn't house all of Fontana's students," she said.

If Reek combined with Traver, there's the fact both schools feed into different high schools. Excluding the possibilities of open enrollment, typically, Traver's eighth-grade graduates move onto Badger High School. Students who graduate from Reek attend Big Foot High School.

"We feed into different high schools, which could be problematic for some people," Henderson said. "Also, we don't know if Traver could house all of our students."

On May 18, Henderson said another important part of the board's current research project is coming up with accurate numbers. That way, there might be an answer for some will be the most important question — will consolidating with either Traver or Fontana save Reek taxpayers money?

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But as for Fontana and Reek, that question already has an answer.

"There are people who probably think we can save money doing this, but we know we can't save money by consolidating with Fontana," Henderson said.

Last month, she said how much a property owner would pay in taxes depends on where they live.

"Usually, the rule of thumb is the district with the lowest mil rate is the district with taxpayers who are going to be paying more money (after consolidation)," Henderson said.

Reek's tax rate is $1.84 per $1,000 of equalized value. Fontana's is $2.57. Traver's is $3.72, she said.

No dome schooling for Reek

The idea of building a new school came up during a special meeting about the Reek building dilemma last fall. However, it appears Kincaid's proposal may have been too eccentric for Reek officials.

Henderson said it left her and board members with a few concerns.

In an e-mail Friday, she released cost estimates for two types of actions, which were prepared by Eppstein Uhen Architects, Milwaukee.

According to the e-mail, it's expected to cost about $8.6 million to build a 47,000-square-foot school with a student capacity of 324. If Reek officials decided to demolish all but the current gymnasium, then build an additional 36,000 square feet of structure off of it, the estimate is $6.8 million.

But the idea of a dome school is unique to the Midwest, where it's believed no such school exists. On top of that, Henderson said in response to a question from Peter Borgo, Kincaid said he hadn't built a dome school before.

"If the board were inclined to build a new school, it would certainly want to research how one of these dome structures would be better than a traditional building," Henderson said.

She also said for Kincaid's proposal to work, it would have required someone to donate land for the structure, something she said she and other board members don't anticipate.

If the board were seriously entertaining the idea, there likely would be another cost involved to purchase a site.

But there's another factor why board members aren't keen on tearing down Reek School or building on the current location at the corner of South Lake Shore Drive and Maple Ridge Road.

"The 1939 and 1957 sections of the building are fine — it's the 1991 addition," Henderson said. "They're sound and it would just be expensive to tear down the existing building. Also, there are springs on this property. You'd have to ask the (state Department of Natural Resources) to build here."

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