New option on the table for crowded elementary schools
Rhinelander space needs discussed
BY EILEEN PERSIKE
The School District of Rhinelander is looking to alleviate overcrowding at the district’s elementary schools. It’s an issue that has been on the back burner for a few years, superintendent Kelli Jacobi said, because the time hasn’t been right. But now it may be.
Nativity of Our Lord parish is selling the St. Joe’s church and school, and district administrators are interested. At a meeting of the Capital Projects Ad Hoc Committee Monday, members directed Jacobi to find out the cost and fees of hiring a realtor or an attorney to represent the district as it moves forward, and report back.
Last fall, when the board was made aware of additional state funding, Jacobi suggested using some of the fund balance to address space needs at Crescent Elementary, by building two additional classrooms at an estimated cost of $1.2 million. These classrooms were slated to be built with other capital projects when the 2010 referendum passed, but Jacobi said the district ran out of funds.
In December, administration was notified that the Nativity north property would be sold, and was asked if the district would be interested in its purchase. Jacobi, school board president Ron Counter and school district supervisor of plant operations Jeff Zdroik toured the space to initially determine whether it would be an option.
“We took a tour through the building,” Jacobi told committee members. “We have some questions and that’s kind of where we stopped. I wasn’t going to investigate anything until I brought this to you.”
Counter reminded the committee that it wasn’t too long ago that the district sold a building. In 2012 the district moved the Northwoods Community Secondary School from the former South Park Elementary to Rhinelander High School, and the building was put up for sale.
“We need to make sure we do our due diligence on this one,” Counter said. “Look at all our options and to take into account that the citizens will be watching us.”
Jacobi said problems discovered with that building, including boilers, asbestos and a bad roof would have cost “millions of dollars to bring up to a condition” that would be fit for students.
At an asking price of $649,000, it’s a building the committee agreed would meet some needs for the district.
“We would be able to house a 4K or early childhood center there, which would be fabulous to have all of the ‘littles’ together in one building,” Jacobi added. “We would be able to have space available to lease to a daycare.”
Committee chair Mike Roberts said purchasing an existing building gives the district more options than simply adding two classrooms to one elementary school. But for Roberts, the bottom line is making sure whichever option they choose, that it fit into the district’s 20-25 year plan.
“One thing that bothers me about that (adding classrooms) option is we’re just adding to the overcrowding,” Roberts said. “If you look at the report that was done, the space needs there aren’t just for classrooms – they’re also about common space for kids and I know right now when they can’t go outside (for recess) it gets pretty crowded. Kids end up eating in their classrooms and things like that. By adding this building, it already has a dining room and it has the church space that could be converted into a recreational space. I think there are a lot of options there.”
Jacobi said moving the district’s youngest learners to one location would free up enough classrooms to make Central, Pelican, Crescent and Northwoods Community Elementary kindergarten through grade five schools, bringing back the idea of neighborhood schools.
“So where we are now, there are two options to consider, and maybe more that I haven’t thought of,” Jacobi said.
Though initially seeking a recommendation from the full board to retain a realtor and proceed with a building and surrounding grounds inspection, board member David Holperin suggested Jacobi find out the cost and fees a realtor or real estate attorney would charge the district before moving ahead with the inspection. Jacobi said she will also talk with the board’s attorney and the WASDA (administrator’s association) regarding protocol in this type of situation.