The results of surveys of Platteville School District teachers and staff, parents and community members indicate a consensus in favor of moving fourth grade from Platteville Middle School to Westview Elementary School.
That option was, in the words of school superintendent Connie Valenza, “very much” the favorite of five potential choices based on survey results and listening sessions in Platteville schools earlier this year.
The School Board held a retreat Monday evening to discuss the survey results and to, as Valenza put it, “start the process of getting more information on specific options” — namely, the fourth-grade-at-Westview option.
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.
That 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.
Valenza said there was “definitely a feeling, and I would agree, that the Middle School is not set up well for the current configuration,” with, for instance, the fifth grade split between two floors, along with “kind of a feeling that the fourth- through eighth-grade span is too wide.”
Valenza said the surveys also showed a lack of interest in moving seventh and eighth grades to the high school, and that respondents were “clearly interested in not shutting down another school,” which was part of the six-grade high school option.
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.
Valenza said the school district is looking at a $16 million project, which at that price tag would not require raising property taxes. Given that the Westview project is estimated at more than $18 million, she said, “It’s not a matter of paring down; it’s a matter of making sure that that’s the direction we want to go,” along with looking at annual maintenance costs and the school district’s fund balance.
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.