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By LeAnn R. Ralph
ELK MOUND — The Elk Mound Board of Education has approved moving forward with a $15.7 million referendum question for the April 7 spring election.
The Elk Mound school board approved authorizing general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed $15,730,000 and a resolution providing for a referendum election on issuing the general obligations bonds at the December 16 meeting.
Although responses to the survey sent out by School Perceptions pertaining to keeping the swimming pool at Elk Mound High School indicated there was not enough support to include updates to the swimming pool on the referendum question, the Board of Education decided to keep operating the swimming pool, said Eric Wright, school district administrator.
Members of the public who attended focus group sessions about possible referendum questions were enthusiastic about keeping the swimming pool, but the responses to the School Perceptions survey were less supportive.
The Board of Education decided to keep operating the swimming pool because they did not want to create a controversy in the school district by removing the swimming pool, Wright said.
Updates to the swimming pool will include replacing the heating and mechanical system and also replacing the air handling units, he said.
The swimming pool will need other updates as well, but those can be addressed in the school district’s regular budget as money becomes available, Wright said.
All of the items that will be included on the referendum are items that cannot be handled through the normal budget process, he said.
Here are the other items that will be included on the referendum question:
• Safety and security updates at all three schools.
• STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) classroom updates (woodworking and metal shops).
• Building systems that will include roofs and boilers at all three schools as well as Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) updates.
• Library improvements to make them into more collaborative learning and teaching environments.
• High school band room addition to expand the space available for the high school music program. The new band room would be built as an addition located to the west of the swimming pool and the weight room. The upper level middle school band students also would use the high school band room, and the fifth and sixth grade band students would remain in the middle school band room.
• New middle school gymnasium.
• Remodeling the existing middle school gymnasium into a classroom.
• Updating the high school locker rooms to provide equity for both girls’ sports and boys’ sports. Updated locker rooms would also benefit the high school physical education classes.
• Athletic field improvements to fix drainage at the football field so it does not flood the high school track and replacing the high school track with a rubberized track.
• Extending the weight room. Since the new band room would be built out extending past the existing weight room, a natural 15-foot space would be created because of the new band room and updates to the locker rooms. Expanding the weight room would make sense to do while the contractors are already on site and the space is available to expand the weight room, Wright said. The Elk Mound powerlifting team has about 70 students, and because there is not enough room in the weight room, some of them have to work in the hallway, making it difficult for the coach to supervise all of the students at the same time.
The referendum projects started with a strategic plan to give direction to the school district and was followed by a facilities assessment to help prioritize the needs of the school district, Wright said.
While the smaller items on the strategic plan are being addressed through the school district’s budget as money becomes available, the referendum projects are too large to be handled through the budget process, he said.
After the facilities assessment was completed, two focus group meetings were held in September, and the School Perceptions survey was sent out to school district residents in October.
The results of the survey were reviewed at a meeting held October 28.
The December 16 Board of Education meeting was the third meeting at which the school board has discussed the survey results and the possible referendum projects, Wright said.
As the time draws closer to the referendum election April 7, the school district will hold an open house, he said.
The school district also will use social media, direct mailings, the school district newsletter and information sent home with students to communicate with voters in the school district, Wright said.
In other business at the December 16 meeting, the Elk Mound Board of Education:
• Recognized Candy Pahl for her notable educational contributions. Pahl, a bus driver in the school district, was nominated by Chris Hahn, Elk Mound Middle School principal and the school district’s transportation director. Pahl is always willing to help in any situation, and “the students love her,” Wright said.
• Approved early graduation for one high school student pending the fulfillment of graduation requirements.
• Accepted the resignation of Darcy Hover as a paraprofessional.
• Approved the school district calendar for the 2020-2021 school year with the first day of school on September 1, 2020, and the last day of school May 28, 2021. The dates could change if voters approve the referendum and the school district asks the state Department of Public Instruction for a waiver, Wright said. In that case, school would start earlier in August and would get out earlier in May so that construction could start on the referendum projects, he said.
• Accepted the resignation of Sam Stelter as the head high school volleyball coach.
• Accepted the resignation of Darla Diermeier as the freshmen volleyball coach.
In closed session, the Elk Mound Board of Education approved hiring Katie Ridings as a paraprofessional.