Board undecided on renovation or new building
By Bert Lehman
The Clintonville School District is moving forward with research and planning for a future referendum regarding its elementary school.
Whether the referendum is for renovations to the current elementary school or building a new facility is still to be determined.
After months of discussing the future of Rexford-Longfellow Elementary School, the board invited representatives from Miron Construction Company and Bray Architects to speak at its Jan. 11 meeting about the process of developing concepts and costs regarding renovations to the existing elementary school or building a new facility.
Craig Uhlenbrauck, vice president, education & commercial for Miron, told the board that he has found that districts that are successful in these type of projects promote community engagement. He said the decision has to be community based, and community led.
Uhlenbrauck and Matthew Wolfert, president and architect at Bray Architects, shared with the board the entire process a district needs to go through for this type of project.
Uhlenbrauck said the district should pick when it wants to hold a referendum. Once that date is determined, then a timeline is created with everything that needs to be done to get to that point.
He added that costs and concepts are not worked on until three months into the process.
“Early on you are just trying to build an understanding of what the needs are in the district. Get the community to understand what the needs are,” Uhlenbrauck said.
Wolfert said the first step of the process is to conduct a facilities study and needs assessment. This could focus on one of the district’s buildings, or all of the buildings.
Forming a task force
While that is taking place, a task force needs to be formed. The task should have a maximum of 30 members and include a diverse representation of those who live in the district, Uhlenbrauck said.
“You want to get a good cross-section of the community that represents all ages, from parents to grandparents to people who don’t have kids in the district, so you’re getting a good representation of everybody,” Uhlenbrauck said.
He said it is important to understand that members of the school board and administration are not “technically” on the task force. Instead, they serve an advisory role.
“Ultimately it’s the community group that is really the one starting to build this,” he said.
He added that it is up to the board to give the task force direction as to what it should focus on.
“Ultimately this task force is making a recommendation to the board, they do not have the final say,” Uhlenbrauck said. “… When that recommendation comes back, ultimately you as a full board would have to bless whatever direction they recommend.”
Developing options, budgets
The next step is to develop options and budgets, Uhlenbrauck said. This takes a number of meetings to accomplish.
A community survey is then conducted. Surveys are sent to every resident who lives in the district. The survey should include questions about funding support for the project, Uhlenbrauck said.
“That (survey) will give you a very clear direction, and ultimately let the task force know what that recommendation should be,” Uhlenbrauck said. “It’s really like going out to referendum before going to referendum.”
He added that if the board decides to conduct a survey, it needs to listen to the survey.
After the survey results are analyzed, the task force will make a recommendation. The recommendation should include the cost impact on the mill rate in the district.
Once the school board adopts a resolution regarding a referendum, it has 75 days to hold the referendum.
Uhlenbrauck said the time between the adoption of a resolution and the referendum is used to educate the district’s residents about the referendum.
Wolfert said the costs of the pre-referendum process would probably be under $10,000, which does not include the survey. The survey will cost $10,000-$15,000.
At the Jan. 25 board meeting the board approved contracts with Miron Construction, Bray Architects, and School Perceptions to work with the district regarding facilities.
Prior to voting, Tom O’Toole, superintendent for Clintonville School District, told the board Miron was not charging a fee to get to referendum, and Bray Architects was charging $8,500 to get to referendum. School Perceptions was charging $9,700 to do the districtwide survey.
One stipulation of the contract stated that if a referendum is ultimately passed, Miron and Bray Architects would be hired to do the project.