Special meeting on high school set for April 5
By Angie Landsverk
The Weyauwega-Fremont School Board saw examples of how the district’s high school could be remodeled or added on to when it met on Monday, March 14.
No decisions were made, and the board set a special meeting for 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 5, to discuss the ideas further.
Dean Beeninga, a partner and architect at ATS&R, presented a total of 12 renderings to the board during its Committee of the Whole meeting.
“Tonight, the goal is to talk, to show the joy of design,” he said. “There are many different ways to go.”
ATS&R is the Minneapolis-based firm the district hired in early 2014 to complete a long-range facility study for the district.
After the firm analyzed all of the district’s facilities, it completed an assessment.
That assessment identified priorities, including improving safety and entries, improving air quality and consistent temperatures and creating new spaces in schools.
The district sought renderings for the high school at the same time it considers HVAC updates for the school as a way to limit disruption and construction time.
Built in 1969, the high school was the site of additions in 1991 and 1996.
The costs of the renderings ranged from $11.7 million for a remodeling, which would include the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) areas, as well as the fine arts and physical education spaces to $23.2 million for additions for those three areas, as well as remodeling other areas.
All of the renderings include $1.7 million for HVAC updates in areas not remodeled.
A number of the ideas presented included a forum room.
Beeninga said that space may be used in various ways.
Between four and six classrooms of students would fit in the space for a presentation.
A forum room may also be used as a meeting space.
In some of the options before the board, it becomes part of the auditorium space.
Those renderings involve remodeling the auditorium and increasing the seating to 300. With the forum space by it, that flexible area would also open up into the auditorium and with its 100 seats, increase the seating for the auditorium to 400.
The estimated cost of that part of the project is $3.4 million.
That compares to a $3.6 million estimate to construct a new 400-seat auditorium in the front of the school.
The cost to add four classrooms off the back of the school to create a STEM area is estimated at $3 million.
The classrooms would be for agriscience, biology, chemistry and the new Project Lead the Way program the district is preparing to begin next school year.
Many of the renderings also include adding a $2.3 million multipurpose gym off the present gym area.
Beeninga described that space as being the size of one basketball court with bleachers for 300 people.
It would be meant to eventually replace the gym in the district’s old middle school on Main Street.
Some of the plans move vocal music from the middle school to the high school.
Beeninga said the budgets for the options are based on past projects ATS&R did. The numbers are also inflated to what they may be a year from now.
“I’ve been in the business 25 years. I can guarantee you won’t pick one of these,” he said of the numerous renderings presented.
He said the board’s decision will be based off of them.
As board members began discussing the next step, Kurt Duxbury suggested the board consider how various options would impact the district’s mill rate.
Drew Niehans, the district’s business manager, said the district could have two separate bond offerings – one before a project begins and the other when it starts.
Staggering the bonds would give the district the ability to refinance each of them.
“Ideally, what you want to do is as one referendum bond project falls off, you try to get another of similar size so the (mill) rate stays flat,” Niehans said.
There is the potential for a November referendum question on the ballot. If the board decides to have a question then, it must recognize the referendum question 90 days before the election, which would be in August.
Board member Dan Kohl said a potential auditorium expansion or addition is the biggest cost and may be the “biggest stickler.”
Sandy Smith, who is also on the board, said many people complain about the current space.
District Administrator Scott Bleck said whether in the classroom, the fine arts or athletics, students deserve to get the same experience they would in another district.
They should leave the high school knowing they had an equal platform, he said.
“I think it’s important that we give everybody something,” Duxbury said.
Beeninga said the district’s top priorities are part of the renderings.
He also told the board to think about the next 20 years and how what it does first fits into what it does in the future.
“Are we creating enough space to instruct?” Bleck asked. “We’re still dealing with a building from 1969.”
In some of the classrooms, nothing has changed since then.
Beeninga said the idea is to find different ways to get as much solved as possible, at a cost which makes the most sense for the district.