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What to do with school buildings
Platteville board to consider districts options
Platteville High School opened in 1967 and was remodeled in 1997. - photo by Photo by Michael Prestegard

In late November, the Platteville School Board approved an agreement with Plunkett Raysich Architects to do a facilities study of school district buildings.

The results of that study are on the agenda of the School Board’s meeting Monday night as an information item.

“The board has already had a chance to look at that review of our facilities, and what possible options are available to the district,” said Superintendent Connie Valenza, who added there are “at a minimum five options, but probably more than that,” including doing nothing beyond regular maintenance to the school district’s five buildings.

The opportunity arises in the next few years because borrowing for the most recent round of building work, including the new Platteville Middle School and other projects, will be paid off during the school district’s 2016–17 fiscal year.

The school district holds classes in four of its five buildings. Children to first grade go to Neal Wilkins Elementary School, which opened in 1979. Second- and third-graders go to Westview Elementary School, which opened in 1967. Fourth- through eighth-graders go to Platteville Middle School, the newest part of which opened in 1997, the same year that renovations to the gymnasium and seventh- and eighth-grade classrooms were completed. Ninth- through 12th-graders go to Platteville High School, which opened in 1967 and was renovated in 1997, including the south classroom wing, north gym and weight room, shop, art rooms and band and choir rooms.

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 more buildings you have, the higher your operational costs go,” said Valenza.

One present building issue is tight quarters at Westview and the middle school. The Westview cafeteria doubles as space for some classes. Fourth grade moved to PMS, and, Valenza said, PMS is not “set up for four lunches or five lunches, and the gym wasn’t set up for that kind of schedule.”

However, she added, “This is not about a growing population. How the school district is configured has led to some space challenges, but overall it’s not that we think the school district is growing to grow.”

One recommendation is likely to be an upgrade of security in the buildings beyond the current system in which visitors are let in after buzzing in to each building’s office. Valenza said current school building design standard calls for “safe and secure and observable entrances to buildings.

“A very glaring observation is security at your main entrances,” said PRA architect Steven Kieckhafer at a school board meeting late last year. PRA advocates a “secure entry sequence” that requires visitors to go directly into the building’s office first. None of the school district’s buildings currently has that feature, and, Kieckhafer said, “each of your buildings has a challenge to incorporate that.”

Other issues to consider are classrooms designed for “the standard desks and rows scenario” in an era of more “hands-on, project-oriented” classroom work, Valenza said, as well as “options for grade configuration.”

The study is estimated to cost up to $18,900.

PRA’s work includes the UW–Platteville Bridgeway Commons, which opened last August, and Southwest Hall, as well as work at Southwest Wisconsin Technical College. PRA also did work in the Columbus School District, where Valenza formerly worked before coming to Platteville.