Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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Reek officials talk survey
Do district residents want renovation, new school or nothing?

by Steve Targo

December 08, 2011

LINN — About one year ago, Reek School Board members first decided to ask district voters to approve a $3.9 million renovation project.

Two failed referenda later, the board may send a survey to these people in hopes of finding out what they want.

Reek Administrator Joe Zirngibl said the board may approve the survey tonight at its regular meeting. He said he expects this survey, which officials hope would be sent back to them around the end of the holidays, to be key in determining the school's future.

"We're looking at a lot of possible options," Zirngibl said.

He said the survey may ask district residents if they would rather support building a new school, renovating the existing one, keeping just part of the school and building onto it or doing nothing.

But it may delve deeper into some of those options. As for building a new school, Zirngibl said the idea so far is to ask district residents if they want to see a conventional building or a dome-styled school. He said it also may ask people if they support only renovating the brick, roof and windows at the current school or the $3.9 million project which was voted down in April and October.

That's a project which the board proposed after tallying concerns submitted by Reek staff, officials and district residents. It called for fixing the failing brickwork, windows and roof as well as other improvements, such as reconfiguring the parking lot to improve traffic flow and creating a new entrance to enhance security.

But twice, Reek voters refused the same project. In April, the vote was 163-187, but it was a defeat by a much slimmer margin in October — 183-187.

Zirngibl said he believes there is still a large group of people who support that failed referendum project. However, he said there also are groups of people who support other options. Some want to see Reek build a new school — and of those people, there are some who want to see the district build a dome school.

According to Zirngibl, School Board members are collecting estimates to support each of the options to appear on the survey.

Although Zirngibl and other board members opposed a dome school idea proposed by Bill Grunow prior to the October referendum, it appears both sides of that issue are working together for the moment.

Zirngibl said Grunow and local architect Tom Kincaid are expected to update Grunow's previous proposal.

Zirngibl said the original dome school proposed "was missing a lot of the basics for a school building," such as it didn't have enough space for offices, kindergarten or the necessary amount of rest rooms.

However, he said Grunow volunteered to submit an updated proposal after the October referendum failure.

"We're trying to get a real apples-to-apples comparison with this," Zirngibl said. "Everyone is looking (for) a building that could house up to 250 students."

He said the board is expected to discuss estimates for other survey options at tonight's meeting. But the goal of the survey is to whittle down the ideas.

"Maybe this survey will tell us which options not to consider," Zirngibl said. "It would be nice to take some of the options off the table."

Although at least some voters may have thought they already expressed their opinion — twice — Zirngibl said the problem is the margin between those voting "yes" and "no" is practically 50-50.

"We're just not over that hump and we need to figure out why," he said. "The survey should help point us in the direction of renovating, new construction or doing nothing."

Zirngibl also discussed what he believes should happen in order for Reek officials to deal with the structural problems of the school.

"I think what we need is to try to consolidate people behind a single idea," he said. "We've got a lot of different ideas out there and if we unite them toward one option, we've got a better chance of exceeding that 50 percent mark."