Future unclear for Rexford-Longfellow
Task force will make recommendation
By Bert Lehman
Residents in the Clintonville School District are split as to whether they want to build a new elementary school.
Results of the recently conducted survey of school district residents asking their opinions on what to do with the district’s elementary school were shared at the Oct. 24 Clintonville School Board meeting.
The board took no action after hearing the results of the survey. A plan moving forward will be developed by the Elementary Facilities Task Force, which was scheduled to meet Wednesday, Nov. 2 to discuss the survey results.
Bill Foster, president of School Perceptions of Slinger, the company that conducted the survey, said the response rate in the district was “very good.”
Concerns were expressed by some residents that they knew people who did not receive the survey in the mail. Foster said that was the first he was hearing of that problem. He added that based on the number of responses received, from a statistical standpoint, receiving more completed surveys would not have changed the results much.
In total, 1,058 surveys were completed by residents, equating to a participation rate of 21 percent. Foster said he had expected the participation rate to be in the 18-20 percent range.
Only 14 percent of the returned surveys were from residents between the ages of 18 and 24. The largest group returning the survey was 35-54 year olds at 41 percent. The next largest group was 65 and older, at 26 percent.
Foster said based on the last census, senior citizens were overrepresented in the survey.
“But when it comes to voting seniors tend to be overrepresented compared to our younger folks,” Foster said.
Almost half of the returned surveys were completed by residents in the city of Clintonville. Town of Larrabee residents comprised 13 percent of the surveys, followed by the town of Matteson and the town of Belle Blaine, each at 9 percent. The town of Bear Creek rounded out the top five at seven percent.
When residents were asked if they wanted to demolish or keep the 1918 portion of the building that comprises the currently elementary school, the results indicated that 2 to 1 those returning the survey wanted that portion of the building demolished, Foster said.
He added that there is a group of people who want to keep the 1918 building, but it’s a group in the minority.
When residents were asked if they would support a $19.6 to $23.7 million dollar referendum to renovate Rexford-Longfellow Elementary School, 36 percent said yes and 37 percent said no. Foster acknowledged that the undecided percentage of 27 was high. He said that percent is typically around 10 percent.
When residents were asked if they would support a $24.9 million referendum to build a new school on the existing Rexford-Longfellow site, 50 percent said yes and 33 percent said no. Those undecided was at 17 percent.
“Generally speaking there’s more support for building new than trying to renovate and remodel,” Foster said.
Foster addressed the number of residents who were undecided.
“Our experience is undecided is the way nice people say no. They don’t want to say no, they say ‘I’m undecided,’” Foster said. “Typically we see about a third of the undecided go to yes, and two-thirds go no.”
Taking that into considering and making a few other assumptions, Foster said the survey revealed that 51 percent were in favor of building a new elementary school on the existing site.
“We’re on the bubble with what was being proposed as far as new construction,” Foster said.
He said that the percentage in favor of remodeling would be lower.
He added that it is possible that some who indicated they were not in favor of building new or remodeling would change their minds once they see the final proposed plan.
Clintonville School Board President Jim Dins asked Foster if the results indicated the board should take the issue to referendum.
“I think if you didn’t go to referendum there would be a lot of disappointed people,” Foster said. “I think you clearly have direction and support to move forward, but you’re going to have to work very, very hard to get information out to justify what it is you are going to do going forward.”
School Board member Ben Huber said based on the results the majority of residents who do not have children in the school district do not support building new or renovating the existing school buildings.
“But you have a strong, excited parent group who will pull that up at the polls,” Foster said.
According to the survey, residents who have children in the district overwhelmingly support building a new elementary school building. They were evenly split in regards to renovating the elementary school buildings.
“It’d be a lot harder for the community to support a renovation versus new construction,” Foster said.
Craig Uhlenbrauck, vice president, education & commercial for Miron Construction, said the survey results will provide good information for the task force to make a recommendation to bring to the school board. He said the information obtained is good enough that the discussion shouldn’t be tabled.
“The community understands that there’s a need here and they want to support some type of a solution here for the elementary needs,” Uhlenbrauck said.
He said the next step is for the task force to sift through the survey results and make a recommendation to the school board.
The school board will make the final decision about taking it to a referendum vote.