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Decisions coming for school board on building project
Information sessions set for December
Work at Platteville High School is estimated to cost $5,095,350. - photo by Platteville Public Schools/Plunkett Raysich Architects

The Platteville School Board has some decisions it needs to make relatively soon about the Platteville Public Schools’ proposed building project.

For instance:
•    Should the project look like the concept created by Plunkett Raysich Architects, or should it change?
•    Should Westview Elementary School get a new cafeteria and kitchen, or a new gymnasium?
•    Should the school board limit the project so that the project doesn’t raise taxes after the final payment on the school district’s 1997 projects is made in 2016?

The school board needs to approve a referendum resolution by Jan. 24 for a referendum to appear on the April 7 spring general election ballot.

The current concept would total $16.98 million, including infrastructure and safety upgrades and:
•    $2.83 million of work at Neal Wilkins Early Learning Center, including two new classrooms, a new main entry, interior renovation and air conditioning in the entire building.
•    $6.52 million of work at Westview Elementary School, including six new classrooms, an addition to the main office, air conditioning, a new cafeteria and kitchen, renovations in other areas, additional parking, and a separate bus/vehicle dropoff area. The fourth grade would be moved from Platteville Middle School to Westview.
•    $2.54 million of work at Platteville Middle School, including a new entry and reconfigured main office, renovated and reduced locker rooms, renovated science rooms, and creation of meeting areas within existing space.
•    $5.1 million of work at Platteville High School, including a new entry and reconfigured main office, renovated science and study hall area, windows in the cafeteria, security doors inside, removing the library mezzanine, and straightening out the school’s angled hallways.

Staff information sessions are scheduled for Westview Dec. 1, PMS Dec. 3, Neal Wilkins Dec. 8 and PHS Dec. 9. Parent information sessions are scheduled for PMS Dec. 15 at 7 p.m., Westview Dec. 16 at 6 p.m., PHS Dec. 17 at 7 p.m., and Neal Wilkins Dec. 18 at 6 p.m.

Community information sessions will also be held, but haven’t been scheduled yet.

The project originally was estimated to cost $18.8 million, but the present concept been reduced in cost by about $1.8 million.

One of the bigger decisions is what to do about the Westview gymnasium, which also serves as Westview’s cafeteria. The first concept would add a new cafeteria and kitchen, but for an additional $790,000 the school district could keep the current gym as a cafeteria and build a double-size gym.

PPS superintendent Connie Valenza said the gym might be more appropriate because state educational regulations appear to be headed toward requiring 30 minutes of physical education every day.

The question of how much a building project will cost depends greatly on interest rates when bids for borrowing are submitted. The school district could borrow up to $17.4 million at 4 percent interest, and $16.65 million at 4.5 percent interest, and keep annual debt payments around $1.2 million, as projected for the 2014–15 school year, one year before the last of the payments on the 1990s project are made. The school district also has a $400,000-per-year maintenance budget, which could fund some project costs.

If the project didn’t exceed those amounts, the school district could complete the project without raising property taxes for debt service, Valenza said.

PPS surveyed more than 200 school district parents, staff, high school students and other school district residents this summer. Moving fourth grade to Westview was the clear favorite over two other options — moving seventh and eighth grade to Platteville High School and consolidating all the elementary grades at either Westview or Neal Wilkins and closing the other grade school, or improving all four buildings and leaving the grades where they are now.

Platteville Middle School originally held the fifth through eighth grades when its new portion opened in 1997. Valenza said the fourth grade moved to PMS when the school district closed O.E. Gray Learning Center.

Valenza said PMS “wasn’t configured for those grade levels,” which was complicated further by an influx of students when St. Mary’s School closed in 2012.

The Plunkett Raysich study noted that Westview, which opened in 1966, was five students over its 234-student capacity when the study was done in the 2013–14 school year. Neal Wilkins, which opened in 1979, and Platteville Middle School were below capacity but above “target” enrollment.

PHS opened in 1967, and was renovated in 1997. O.E. Gray opened in 1953, but the school district stopped holding classes there in 2008. The building was the home of St. Mary’s School between 2008 and 2012.

The surveys also indicated interest in expanding PHS’ athletic facilities. Though it is not part of the proposal, Plunkett Raysich did do a cost estimate of a 2,000-seat football stadium with expanded track at the current track — almost $2.27 million.

Adding lights, fencing and bleachers to seat 400 at the soccer field would cost an estimated $312,000.