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Platteville School Board plans retreat to discuss building project's next phases
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The Platteville School Board will hold a retreat on the proposed $18.8 million school construction project Monday, Nov. 3 at 6 p.m.

The retreat is scheduled to, in the words of Platteville Public Schools superintendent Connie Valenza, “clarify the scope of the project and determine some of the next steps related to community engagement.”

For a referendum to get onto the spring ballot, the School Board has a deadline of December to pass a resolution.

The School Board voted in August to pursue one of five proposed building options — moving fourth grade from Platteville Middle School to Westview Elementary School — from a survey of more than 200 school district parents, staff, high school students and other school district residents.

Moving fourth grade to Westview 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. The $18.8 million cost estimate, based on results of the building study by Plunkett Raysich Architects of Milwaukee, also includes work at PPS’ three other buildings where classes are being held.

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 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. Paying off the project means the school district could make up to $16 million in building improvements without raising the tax levy 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, although they may move after the School Board approved leasing the building to the Platteville Public Library for temporary use during the Library Block project.

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.