GENEVA — On Nov. 5, voters will decide whether Woods School can spend $5.55 million to add about 22,000 square feet onto its existing building.
In an Aug. 21 interview, Woods Administrator Ed Brzinski said if approved, the project will annually cost district property owners $56 per $100,000 of assessed value. The last time Woods went to referendum for a building project was in 2001, Brzinski said.
“The board was very conscious of the impact on the taxpayers,” he said about the proposed $5.55 million project. “On the other hand, the best time to borrow money is now, because interest rates are low and we can refinance some of our existing debt in 2014.”
Four major points to the referendum project are:
- To construct a middle school regulation-sized gymnasium, with a 30-foot-high ceiling.
- To add six classrooms and storage space.
- To revise the main entrance and improve security.
- To revamp the kitchen, making it ready to someday allow the school to provide hot lunch.
Brzinski said lack of space and security concerns are crucial motivators behind this project, which began when a committee was established in December 2011.
“They’ve been looking at these issues for quite a while and we’ve essentially utilized all our existing space for instruction,” he said. “When you’re flipping classrooms all the time, it’s rough.”
Flipping? That’s what they call it when they use a room for several different functions.
For example, in a previous interview, Brzinski said the gym isn’t just a gym. They use it as a cafeteria, an auditorium and, last year, as a science classroom.
But even when used as a gym, Brzinski said despite its beautiful architecture, the room is not big enough.
“Our gym right now, we worry about safety constantly,” he said. “There’s no room for spectators, no room for storage.”
How is that a safety concern?
“Just because, for instance, right now, there’s not a lot of area around the playing surface. It’s a small court already, (with) at most six feet on one side of the edge of the playing surface. There’s less than that on the other.”
It’s so small, Brzinski said, that volleyball teams from other schools won’t play there.
“We’ll hold our home meets at their schools,” he said. “But I mean, it’s a beautiful room. We’re still going to utilize it as a cafeteria and auditorium.”
And what does the public think?
Brzinski said one person attended the Aug. 14 meeting when the board decided to go to referendum.
“We’ve had no negative reaction at this point,” he said about the proposed project.
History of support
In 2001, the majority of Woods residents approved a referendum to add five classrooms and a stage, said Brzinski. Before that, the last time there was a referendum for a building project was in the early 1970s, he said.
“The community has always been very supportive,” Brzinski said.
But the economy in 2001 was not what it is today.
How will that shape the outcome of the Nov. 5 election?
“I think it’s always a concern, and that’s why I think that it’s important to get the message out to the taxpayers,” Brzinski said.
That message includes making Woods School more secure, he said.
The question is, when other nearby school districts such as Reek experienced difficulty in obtaining approval for projects, how is Woods going to convince taxpayers?
Brzinski said the difference between Woods and the Reek referendums is that Reek’s involved fixing problems incurred during a previous building project.
“The Woods School referendum is mostly for additional space, and it’s space that is needed,” he said. “And whether we have 200 students or 150 students, we really owe it to the taxpayers to increase the safety of the building.”
Two public forums, where information will be discussed and available on the project, have been tentatively scheduled for:
- Wednesday, Sept. 25, from 5 to 7 p.m.
- Thursday, Oct. 17, from 6 to 8 p.m.
Brzinski said he’s not just looking at the proposed $5.55 million project from the standpoint of school administrator.
He lives in the Woods School District.
“I’m a taxpayer here, and I look at it as money well spent,” Brzinski said. “I look at it as something the community will use for decades to come.”
This story was updated on Aug. 29, 2013, to correct the amount the project will cost per $100,000 of assessed value.