Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

Renovation versus new

by Chris Schultz

November 14, 2013

WILLIAMS BAY — The elementary school, 139 College St., has a roof in need of repair, an outdated furnace and a growing number of electronic devices putting pressure on an old electric system.
Plumbing, heating, ventilation and air conditioning also are on a list of updates the school soon will need.
That list was made in 2009. And it hasn’t changed.
A 2010 study by Kehoe-Henry & Associates, Elkhorn, gave the Williams Bay School Board two cost figures for fixing those problems.
And those figures, roughly $8 million and $11 million have been raised as possible alternatives to spending more for a new building.
But those aren’t figures that can be compared to a new school, said Superintendent Wayne Anderson in a recent interview.
Anderson said that some people seem to think that the study presented an alternative to building a new school.
But the study cost figures are not comparable to what a new building would offer, he said.
“The $8 million figure is going through and saying when you repair the heating roof, electrical and plumbing, it will cost $8 million,” Anderson said.
The $11 million figure takes those basic repairs and adds a change to the floor plan, Anderson said.
If the Williams Bay School District were to do the work recommended by the Kehoe-Henry report, the district would have the same building as before, just with newer parts, Anderson said.
There’s a belief that the Kehoe-Henry study gave numbers for a complete renovation,” said Anderson. “And that’s not what it was.
“It doesn’t change the basic building,” he said.
A final portion of the study was to compare the cost of renovations to the construction of a new school, Anderson said. But that final portion of the report was not done.
The school board is now following the recommendations of the facilities committee.
Committee membership was open and many school district residents participated as membership fluctuated over time.
But the committee’s recommendation was clear:
Do not renovate the old building. Build new.
The board has said it also wants something more than just a renovated old building. The board wants a school building that will take teaching into the next century.
Even with renovations, the old building will have Wi-Fi dead spots and its classrooms will remain oriented to the seats-in-a-row, eyes-front, teaching that most educators say is now outmoded.

The Williams Bay School Board is currently on a path that will lead it to ask district voters for the necessary funds to build a new school near the existing junior/senior high school at 500 Geneva St.
Consultants from Eppstein Uhen Architects, Milwaukee, are helping the board with options on new construction.
However, a district wide survey by School Perceptions LLC on the issue of a new elementary school gave mixed signals at best. While the overall approval rating of the school district was positive, parents tended to support a new school, while nonparents were opposed.
The results were enough to cause Eppstein Uhen to suggest that a referendum on the new school be delayed from April to November.
At the Nov. 4 meeting, the board agenda had an item involving the discussion of a $15 million option versus an $18 million option.
The discussion never got that far. However, a member of the Eppstein Uhen staff commented that those figures might be unrealistic.
Anderson said it would be possible to completely renovate the old building.
When he was superintendent at Mount Horeb, the district there did a multi-million dollar renovation of the elementary school district, he said.
But even if the board were to do a comparison between renovating the old school and building new, the cost figures provided by Kehoe-Henry would not provide an adequate comparison, Anderson said.
And there are issues to solve whether the district builds new or not, Anderson said.
When renovating an old building, the first question is, what do you do with the kids while you’re renovating the building?
“There would be inconveniences,” Anderson said.
On the other hand, should the district get the voters’ go ahead to build a new school, there has been little agreement over what to do with the old building.
The original building at 139 Congress St. was built in 1916 and has six additions.
The building was a K-12 school until 1996, when the new junior and senior high school was built on 88 acres of donated farmland at 500 W. Geneva St.
The junior/senior high school was built with the idea that a new elementary school would be built there later.