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Darlington School Board reviews options for future of district
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The Darlington Community School Board is faced with decisions regarding the aging high school and 4K - 12th grade programming needs.  The high school was built in 1965 and is facing failing heating and cooling inefficiencies as well as an aged roof.  The school board is also faced with increased athletic needs, safety concerns with the baseball field and a community group interested in supporting and updating the high school library.

Due to these issues, board members approved a contract to conduct a facility study that came at the cost of approximately $7,200 with Hoffman Planning, Design, & Construction, Inc.

This was an aspect of efforts to be fiscally responsible and transparent, while assessing the needs of the school’s programming and facilities. The purpose of the study was to first do an in-depth analysis of each existing facility including the architectural, structural, mechanical, and electrical capabilities.

The firm also conducted an educational space analysis with consideration given to facility usage and limitations for instruction, as well as recommendations to improve the function and safety of common spaces. They developed options for renovation and reconfiguration and/or additions to existing buildings. The financial cost and a pro/con analysis was conducted for each of these options.

The firm provided various options.  This does not mean the board has decided on a particular building project or direction. The intent of the study was to find out as much information as possible about the present buildings and how well they will continue to meet the needs of the district in the future. The school board wants to know how much investment is needed in the current facilities to maintain and adapt them for present and future use.

In 2011, the electorate of the Darlington Community School District supported a referendum of approximately $2.2 million for payment on the liability contributions under Wisconsin Retirement System and capital improvements.

The bond that was approved will be paid back in March of 2018. This gives the board a unique opportunity in the fall of 2016 to potentially address future facility needs for the next 15 to 20 years without raising the levy or with a small increase.

There is nothing that says that the board has to take advantage of this opportunity. It will be up to the voters in the Darlington Community School District at that time to decide whether to take advantage of the opportunity.

The district believes that it is important to have as much information possible to share with community members in making that decision.

The board wants to make sure that they have looked at multiple options including student safety, competing space for gym classes and sports, secure and visible entrances, and updated learning spaces that fully integrate technology and grade-level alignments.

The board is not at the point of making any decisions, and plans are underway to provide many opportunities for staff, student, and community feedback along the way.

The board’s approval of the facility study was that important first step. The second step was to complete the facility study.  The third step is to inform parents and community members of the findings of the study followed by surveys followed by addressing the community decisions.  The school board and administration welcome conversations about this venture.