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By LeAnn R. Ralph
ELK MOUND — Should the Elk Mound school district keep the swimming pool at Elk Mound High School?
The opinion expressed by some of the approximately 40 people who attended the focus group meeting at Elk Mound High School September 4 is the school district should keep the swimming pool.
The focus group meeting included a tour of the high school to view areas that should be remodeled and updated, including the boys’ and girls’ locker rooms, the pool area, the band and choir room, the mechanical room, the library and the wood and metal shops.
Whether Elk Mound keeps the swimming pool could be an issue for students in the Colfax school district since Colfax students have taken swimming lessons at Elk Mound during the summer.
The swimming pool requires maintenance and to be made handicapped accessible, said Luke Schultz of CESA 10.
CESA 10 conducted a facilities assessment for the Elk Mound school district.
A survey will be sent out to school district residents early in October asking them which projects they would be likely to support should the Elk Mound Board of Education decide to ask voters to approve funding in a school district referendum.
In addition to handicapped accessibility, the swimming pool should have the bottom re-plastered and the lines repainted, and the air handling system also requires updating, Schultz said.
If the swimming pool was demolished, that area of the school could be used for a band room and choir room. If the swimming pool is retained, an addition could be built onto the school between the building and the football field to accommodate band and choir, he said.
In either case, whether the swimming pool remains or is taken out, band and choir need more room, and the weight room could be moved to the room used now for band and choir.
The issue with the weight room is up to 70 students are in powerlifting at Elk Mound, and the current weight room is too small to accommodate all of the students, Shultz said.
At times, students have to work in the hallway, he noted.
Another issue is the boys’ and girls’ locker rooms.
The boys have an athletic locker room and a physical education locker room, but the girls only have a physical education locker room and no athletic locker room.
A remodel could include the addition of a girls’ athletic locker room and moving part of the locker room space to the weight room, which would provide better access to the swimming pool.
When there is an athletic event during the school year at Elk Mound High School, there can be no open gym and no open swimming for the community because of where the locker rooms are situated now, said Eric Wright, school district administrator.
Moving the locker rooms and reconfiguring the access to the swimming pool would allow open swimming during the school year, he said.
Band and choir
The issue with the band and choir room is there are about 90 students in band, and the room is “jam packed” said Gerry Murphy, band director.
Where to put students is an issue, and where to store uniforms and band instruments is an issue, he said.
Volume of sound also is an issue. When the pep band plays, for example, “it gets very loud in the room,” Murphy said.
Choir and band share the room, and from class period to class period, the room must be shifted around to accommodate whichever class will be coming in for the next class period, he noted.
Shop and more
The wood and metal shops at Elk Mound High School have not been renovated in more than 40 years.
The equipment has been updated, but the set-up and the structure must be modernized, Schultz said.
For example, the paint booth should be enclosed, the dust collection system should be updated and more storage room should be added, he said.
The two shop areas also should be opened up so they are more “user friendly” to allow the teacher to see both sides of the shop, Schultz said.
Updating the mechanical room would include replacing boilers to make them more energy efficient and installing digital controls, he said.
Remodeling the library would allow more efficient use by the students, Schultz said.
Roofs on all three schools also should be replaced because they are past their warranties and are past their “useful lives,” he said.
Other potential projects include the parking lot in back of the school building and resurfacing the track along with other updates to the athletic field.
When those attending the focus group meeting had assembled again in the high school auditorium, Jim Holte, who formerly served on the Board of Education and who facilitated the last focus group meetings for the school district’s referendum 10 years ago, said the “elephant in the room” was the swimming pool installed in the high school in 1976.
Does the swimming pool have value? Should the school district keep it or use the space for something else? Holte asked.
One audience member noted, according to information provided to focus group attendees, it would be the same cost to keep the pool and build a new addition for the band and choir rooms as it would be to demolish the pool and renovate the pool area for the band and choir.
“Build new and keep the pool,” he said.
The annual maintenance cost for the swimming pool is between $75,000 and $100,000, Wright said.
The swimming pool is a “huge asset” and is unique to the district, so keeping the pool is a priority, said another audience member.
If the swimming pool was eliminated, parents would have to take their children to the YMCA in Eau Claire for swimming lessons, said another person in the audience.
One person noted with 1,200 students in the Elk Mound school district, the students “should have that opportunity” for swimming lessons.
In addition to high school students having the opportunity to swim, students at Mound View Elementary use the swimming pool every Monday, and students at Elk Mound Middle School use the swimming pool by units, one month at a time.
Removing the swimming pool would be “short sighted.” If the district decided to install a swimming pool again in five or 10 years, would the community approve it? wondered another person in the audience.
One person in the audience noted because of her work schedule, she would not have time to take her children to the YMCA for swimming lessons.
Another person in the audience said a six-week course of swimming lessons at the YMCA cost $175 per child.
Yet another person in the audience said she would be unable to afford it if she had to pay $175 per child for swimming lessons.
The Elk Mound school district has $4.5 million in outstanding debt as of July 1, Wright said.
The school district, according to a percentage of equalized property value in the district, has a debt limit of $38 million, he said.
People who attended the focus group meeting suggested the surveys sent out to school district residents include an itemized list of potential projects along with a cost for each option.
According to information provided to the focus group, if the school district were to borrow an additional $9 million, taxpayers would see no increase in their property taxes.
If the school district borrowed $11 million, taxpayers would see an increase of $24 per year per $100,000 of property value.
If the school district borrowed $13 million, taxpayers would see an increase of $48 per year per $100,000 of property value.
If the school district borrowed $15 million, taxpayers would see an increase of $72 per year per $100,000 of property value.
If the school district borrowed $17 million, taxpayers would see an increase of $96 per year per $100,000 of property value.
If the school district borrowed $19 million, taxpayers would see an increase of $120 per year per $100,000 of property value.
The mill rate in the Elk Mound school district for the 2018-2019 school year was $8.26 per $1,000 of property value. Colfax was $7.99 per $1,000 of property value. Boyceville was $9.02 per $1,000 of property value, and Glenwood City was $9.76 per $1,000. The state average was $9.44 per $1,000 of property value
The Elk Mound Board of Education is expected to consider approving the survey at the September meeting.
If the survey is approved, surveys would be sent out to district residents early in October, and the results of the survey would be presented to the Board of Education at the October 28 meeting.