Some school board members prefer new building
By Bert Lehman
The future of Rexford/Longfellow Elementary School in Clintonville has yet to be determined.
At the Clintonville School Board meeting on Monday, Oct. 12, each school board member voiced their opinion about the district’s elementary school. The board had previously discussed the option of removing the 1918 portion of the elementary school building.
Prior to the discussion Clintonville Superintendent Tom O’Toole told the board the purpose of the discussion was to start the conversation within the community, starting at the board level, in an effort to determine the best option for the district.
Board member Tom Neely said he thought it would cost more to bring the aging building up-to-date than it would to build a new school building.
“But it’s a sad thing if the building would have to come down,” Neely added.
Board member Clyde Tellock said the district doesn’t know if it would cost more to update the building or build a new building.
“Until we have some costs to compare I think it’s premature to make that assumption,” Tellock said.
The district had obtained an estimate about four years ago on what it would cost to demolish the 1918 portion of the building, and that cost was around $250,000. O’Toole said that figure did not include the construction to close up the remaining building after the 1918 portion is removed.
O’Toole added that the district has been told by experts in the construction industry to add three percent to the estimate each year.
Board member Jim Dins said he’d like to see the district build a new two-story elementary school where Dellwood Early Learning Center is located.
Board member Jim Schultz agreed that the board needs to know what costs are associated with each option. He added that for the long-term benefit of the district, it might be better to build a new elementary school.
Schultz said he wasn’t sure if the Dellwood building needed to be removed.
“Dellwood seems to be a pretty good building yet and I think we need to be creative in terms of thinking how to use the complex up here,” Schultz said.
With shared staff between buildings, Schultz said it would be beneficial to have the elementary school located near the middle school and high school.
“We’re wasting a lot of time going downtown,” Schultz said.
He added that the traffic near the current elementary school when students are dropped off and picked up is dangerous.
“We could design something so much better if we had it here (near middle school and high school),” Schultz said.
Dins asked where a new building would be built if the Dellwood location wasn’t used.
Schultz said he wasn’t sure.
Board member Dirk Weber said he also thinks a new elementary school building is the answer, but he wasn’t sure where it should be located.
“I do like Dellwood and I think it has a lot of life left in it,” Weber said.
The district paying the debt on the current high school for another seven years is an obstacle, Weber said.
“We have to acknowledge the problems our city is having,” Weber said. “… Until our city gets its financial issues in line we have no hope of passing a referendum.”
Dins said he agreed there was no hope of passing a referendum.
Schultz said if everything was planned out, he thought a referendum would pass.
He added that when the high school is paid off, that might be a good time to add more debt by building a new elementary school.
“Where are we going to be in another 20 years if we don’t do that?” Schultz asked.
Board President Ben Huber said building an elementary school near the current middle school and high school would make that area a “traffic nightmare.”
Huber said before any decisions can be made, costs for the different options need to be obtained and compared. He added the district has better places to spend its money than building a new building if that isn’t the most cost effective option.
“Buildings don’t teach kids, people teach kids,” Huber said.
He said he’d like to see a new building also, but that may not be the most cost effective solution.
“I think to indebt this community for another 20 years may not be the wisest way to go,” Huber said.
The board agreed to have the district administration obtain cost figures for renovating the elementary school complex and building a new building in order to be able to compare those costs.
Third Friday count
O’Toole informed the board that the third Friday of September count was 1,439 students this year. Last year it was 1,390. This figure is used to help determine state aid for the district.
The adjusted head count, which includes open enrollment in and out of the district was 1,467 this year, compared to 1,402 last year, O’Toole said.
“It’s always good to be in a position of increasing enrollment,” O’Toole said.
Lori Poppe addressed the board regarding busing issues for her daughter who attends Clintonville Middle School. Hoppe had addressed the board in September regarding the same concerns.
“At this time we are still dealing with these issues. The school will still not have her ride the special needs bus,” Poppe said.
Since Poppe last addressed the board, she said she spoke with the bus garage manager and was told the manager has concerns about Poppe’s daughter riding the bus because of communication issues.
Poppe said after speaking with parents, she found out her daughter was the only student taken off the special needs bus.
“We don’t understand why,” Poppe said. “She is not at an age where she is ready for transition to ride (other) transportation.”
Poppe also told the board that in June it had approved the use of two special needs buses but only one special needs bus is currently being utilized.
“We will continue to fight to get her on the special needs bus because we truly feel that’s in her best interest,” Poppe said.
Poppe claimed she was told by the bus garage manager that if her daughter is placed on the special needs bus route, a second bus would be required, because the route would be too long otherwise.
“Our question to you is, can you please check this out?” Poppe said.