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Moving fourth grade to Westview is favored option
School board approves building focus of study
Westview Elementary School, which was built in 1967, holds Plattevilles second- and third-graders. - photo by Photo by Michael Prestegard

The Platteville School Board is going ahead with a proposal to move fourth grade from Platteville Middle School to Westview Elementary School.

A referendum date is at least months off, and no drawings exist of what an addition to Westview might look like. The cost estimate of almost $18.8 million is only an estimate.

But based on a clear preference for that alternative over other options in a survey of more than 200 school district parents, staff, high school students and other school district residents, the School Board voted Monday night to pursue that option instead of one more expensive and three less expensive proposals to address school district building issues.

The school district now will pursue a “focus of study” on the Westview fourth-grade option, including developing a concept for the building addition and site, creating a possible schedule and more definite cost estimates, and creating a formal presentation to the school district on the proposal.

The focus of study will “put it out to get the feel of the community” on the Westview project and other building improvements, said school superintendent Connie Valenza.

Moving fourth grade to Westview — which would involve at least building new classrooms and improving security and the dropoff and pickup area, and may also include building a new cafeteria or gymnasium — is estimated to cost almost $18.8 million, based on results of the building study by Plunkett Raysich Architects of Milwaukee.

“Until we’re able to get approval in a referendum, we’re not able to get actual bids” to see how accurate the $18.8 million estimate is, said Valenza, though cost estimates will get more accurate as the process goes on.

The Westview option 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 Early Learning Center and closing the other grade school, estimated at $14.75 million, or improving all four buildings and leaving the grades where they are now, estimated at almost $19.6 million.

The fourth-grade option also was favored over two other options — spending money only on maintenance as part of the school district’s annual budget, and spending $6.36 million on what are termed “maintenance and priority items” for the buildings.

The school district is considering building improvements because the last set of building improvements —- including the new Platteville Middle School and renovations at Platteville High School in 1997 — will be paid off in the school district’s 2015–16 fiscal year. The school district could thus make facility improvements without raising taxes, or make no improvements and reduce the tax levy.

“The direction of the board has consistently” favored a project of $16 million, Valenza said, which at that price tag would not require raising property taxes to fund debt service. To get to $16 million could involve deletion of some projects, or moving some projects into a future school-year maintenance budget.

The Plunkett Raysich study notes that Westview, which opened in 1967, is five students over its 234-student capacity. Neal Wilkins, which opened in 1979, and Platteville Middle School, the newest part of which opened in 1997, are 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, when St. Mary’s closed its school. The building now has Southwest Wisconsin Technical College classes and other rental space. The school board’s meetings are now held there.

The study identifies one feature common to all four currently used school buildings — “main entrance not secure and lacks supervision.” PRA’s projects route visitors to school buildings directly into the office.

The study noted Westview’s “need for multi-use space” because “current use of gymnasium as cafeteria creates scheduling conflicts and rushed lunch periods,” and “combined bus drop-off and vehicle drop-off unsafe.”

The study said the fourth-grade-to-Westview option would result in a “better grade configuration/longer transition time” and “allows for growth even though not currently projected,” but would be a “still not optimal grade configuration” and would not improve operational costs.