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February 22, 2020

1/16/2020 7:30:00 AM
School district may add multi-purpose room, new office at Crescent Elementary

Jamie Taylor
River News Reporter

School District of Rhinelander officials are considering adding a large multi-purpose room to Crescent Elementary School, along with other modifications, using $1 million set aside in this year's budget.

The district's operations and strategic planning committee discussed the idea with administrators Monday and concluded more research is needed.

If the project is going to be done this summer, it will have to go out for bids soon, noted Robert Thom, the district's director of business services.

While $1 million has been set aside for the addition of the multi-purpose room, the building will still need two more classrooms, along with a new office, to alleviate a continuing space crunch at the school, administrators said.

The district could borrow an additional $1 million without going to district voters for permission, Thom noted.

"You don't always have to go to referendum to borrow money," he told the committee."You can just do that as a board. You can also borrow pretty much as much as you like as a board without going to referendum, you just have to put notices out there, and if 20 percent of the electors in the last governor's election don't come forward to object, you can borrow the money."

The contractor that recently added two classrooms to each of the district's elementary schools, with the exception of Cassian/Woodboro, estimated the project would be "in the ballpark of $1 million," Thom said.

"Since then we've been talking about adding a couple classrooms to go along with it to ease the crowding over there," he explained.

He said getting the project underway in June would assure it would be completed by the start of the 2020-21 school year.

"We put it on there (the agenda) to kind of feel you guys out to see if that is still something we want to get done this summer, and if so, we need to think about getting bids and getting the ball rolling," Thom explained.

Committee chair Mike Roberts said the committee paid for last year's additions out of the fund balance and earmarked an additional $1 million in this year's budget specifically for the multi-purpose room at Crescent.

"We've been talking about this extra commons space need out there, is it potentially a gymnasium? It's not the full size of the (current) gymnasium, it's more common space, multi-use room," Roberts said.

He then cited a feasibility study done in 2014 that showed "Crescent had the worst student to space ratio" in the district.

"The number of kids per square footage," Roberts said. "And where most of that was lacking was common space. And we have been talking about that since the feasibility study."

As part of construction done in the fall, the storm sewer was redesigned, and included enough additional capacity for the addition, officials said. The 5,000 square foot multi-purpose room could be added one of two ways and, depending on which option is selected, additional classrooms could also be included.

"If we are going to do that (add the multi-purpose room), it makes sense to do it (add the classrooms) at the same time," superintendent Kelli Jacobi said.

Committee member David Holperin asked about potential space needs at Pelican and Central.

"We might need to shift some kids," Holperin said.

"We would have to look at our boundaries and reconfigure those again," Jacobi replied. "We knew we would have to because it is the first year of this (elementary school) reconfiguration to see if we can do a better job of balancing the number of kids in each elementary. Because currently, Crescent is the high, it will probably always be the highest number of students."

She said the current student population at Crescent is about 200 higher than Central, so there is a big difference.

"So we do need to look at that," she said. "Do we have enough room, do these classroom additions help? Absolutely they help," Jacobi explained. "But we're always one step away from not having enough (space). If the state goes to full-day 4K, that's going to be a problem at Crescent School. The other schools will be fine."

She said Cassian/Woodboro School could handle an additional 40 or so students who are currently attending Crescent.

The problem would be most parents drop their children off and pick them up at school instead of using busing.

"There could be a lot of unhappy parents," Jacobi noted.

The need for a new school office was also pointed out by principal Gayle Daniel.

After discussing the various options, the committee asked Jacobi to have additional information available for the February committee meeting.

The panel also asked for information on anticipated building projects district-wide over the next three to five years.

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