Board of Education votes to go to referendum
After years of planning, the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District Board of Education unanimously voted to place two referendum questions on the Nov. 6 ballot on Monday night aiming to address critical issues in the district.
If approved by voters, the solution will lead to the rebuilding and expansion of Kromrey Middle School in Middleton and the expansion of Glacier Creek Middle School in Cross Plains. The proposal would also move fifth-graders to both middle schools and relieve overcrowding in the district’s six elementary schools.
The Board voted 7-0 to approve a capital question not to exceed $59,860,000. About $49 million would be spent on Kromrey and approximately $11 million on Glacier Creek. The Board also voted 7-0 to put on the ballot an operational question of $797,000. That would allow the district to exceed the revenue limit for recurring purposes.
“We all want what's best for our children, which is why we live in Middleton,’’ Board member Leeanne Hallquist said on Monday. ‘’This helps us do that.’’
Over the years, the district has seen significant growth in student enrollment. All elementary schools in the district are currently at 99-110 percent of their full capacity, and are expected to grow by at least 1-2 percent each year for the foreseeable future.
Kromrey, which was built in 1962, currently faces multiple challenges. District officials estimate that $5-7 million in facility improvements are needed over the next 5-7 years. That would leave very little, if any, capital maintenance dollars for the district’s other nine schools. Kromrey was closed for six days at the start of the 2010 school year as a result of ongoing mold issues.
If passed, the plan presented to voters in November will cost property owners approximately $0.70 per year for each thousand dollars of property value, meaning roughly $140 for a home with a $200,000 value or $210 for a home with a $300,000 value. This is approximately half of the amount proposed in a referendum in 2009, which aimed to solve the same problems, and provides more capacity for students without requiring that school boundaries be redrawn.
"I'm really happy with where we are going,'' Board member Jim Greer said. "This provides a long-term solution for the district while keeping the tax impact low.''
A Long Range Planning Committee made up of community volunteers and staff members was formed in 2003 and reconvened in December 2010. As part of that effort, community members reviewed the needs of the district, worked with the district’s architect and weighed up various options. The solution that will be on the ballot in November was then forwarded to the board by the LRPC.
“The solution that will be presented to voters in November was created based on the input of hundreds of community members from across the district,” Board President Ellen Lindgren said. “Not only does this solution address our urgent needs, but it provides our community with great school environments in a very cost-effective way.''
In rebuilding and expanding Kromrey and expanding Glacier Creek, the district would move fifth-grade students from the elementary schools to the middle schools, freeing up space for all elementary students while providing additional classroom space for fifth-graders. Fifth-graders at both middle schools would learn in separate wings of the schools and would have very little contact with students from other grades.
As part of its planning, the Long-Range Planning Committee and the school board sought to make the most of the unique settings of Glacier Creek and Kromrey without adding considerably to the price of the project. At Glacier Creek, local residents will have access to extra gymnasium space and a fitness room, as well as the use of a community room. Kromrey will have those same benefits, while the school will also make full use of its proximity to Pheasant Branch Conservancy.
“After the failed 2009 referendum, the school board went back to the drawing board to seek a solution that addressed the critical facility needs that we have at Kromrey, as well as our overcrowding issues, but in a way that was sensitive to taxpayers’ needs,” Greer said. “We feel that the solution the board is presenting to community members does exactly that.”
The last elementary school built in the district was Sunset Ridge in 1996. The last middle school built in the district was Glacier Creek in 1996. Enrollment in the district has grown by more than 20 percent since that time. The school district has more than 6,000 students in its 10 schools. In 2011-12, there were 2,668 students in the six elementary schools. The capacity of the six elementary schools is 2,371.
* To see more pictures from Monday's meeting, visit the district's Facebook page.