Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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Return to square one
Reek School Board once again looks for brick solutions

by Chris Schultz

October 27, 2011

LINN — Missing by four votes on a referendum has to hurt.

Last Tuesday, Reek voters turned down the School Board's request to borrow $3.9 million for repairs and renovations to the K-8 building by 187-184.

Now that the votes are tallied, the Reek School Board members have to suck it up and find a new way to fix the problems facing the school.

What the Oct. 18 referendum proposed was to fix the brick work on the exterior of the 1993 addition as well as repair or replace the roof and windows.

Earlier estimates put those repairs at about $1.3 million.

In addition, the work would have also included making energy-efficient improvements, a more secure main entrance, technology upgrades, remodeling the cafeteria and music area and site improvements to improve traffic flow for picking up and dropping off students.

At a special school board meeting Monday, board members went back to square one to start brainstorming a solution to the problems facing their elementary school.

The alternatives vary from external repairs to a failing brick fašade, to building a new school.

Maybe a dome-shaped one, as was proposed by district resident Bill Grunow and some other members of the public before the last referendum.

Maybe not.

The board will also consider an attitude survey with several alternatives to see which attracts the most support.

About one-third of the students attending Reek are open enrollment students. The board doesn't want to do anything to lose those students who come to Reek by choice.

School Board member John Palmer made it clear that he would like to see Reek in a new building, whether it is a dome or a conventional building.

"I would rather have new than old," said Palmer. "But, I'd rather fix than have none."

What is not an option is consolidation. Board members said that nearby elementary schools of Fontana and Traver are not big enough to accommodate all of Reek's students.

A further complication is that Traver is in the Badger High School district, while Reek feeds the Big Foot High School District

Some residents believe that consolidation would reduce taxes, when in fact, it's far more likely to increase them, said Board President Bonnie Cornue.

What the board decided to do is go back over specifications and requirements needed to maintain a good-quality school building.

The district will also look at the possibility of grants.

Cornue said she talked to people who are against a spending referendum for any reason.

"There were people who voted no because they don't want their taxes to go up a penny," Cornue said.

Grunow had another opinion.

"People didn't want to vote to spend $4 million on a sinking ship," he said. Grunow had claimed that the district could build a new 22,000-square-foot dome school for about $4 million.

Some School Board members disagreed the district needs a new school.

Board member Alex Palmer said that the school's foundation is solid and the interior construction is sturdy. The existing building also has 42,000 square feet of floor space, although how that space is divided among classrooms, hallways and utility space wasn't mentioned.

School board members said they thought that Reek might be able to function well with about 32,000 square feet, but again, that will require some study.

Palmer, who works in the construction industry, said professional estimators said cost of new schools about the size of Reek's 42,000 square feet is running at $8.1 million.

Board member Peter Borgo said that districts usually consider building new schools when they experience an increase in population. And they usually have a site ready for future construction.

Reek doesn't have site, he said.

The district's problems started when it became apparent that the facing brick on the 1993 addition to the school was improperly installed.

Water was able to seep into the brick facing and then freeze and thaw, which is now causing the brick to spall and peel away. An expert told school administration last year that if the brick is not fixed, it will shift, putting stress on the steel support structure underneath, which could lead to problems that are more serious in the future.