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School assesses facility needs
Facility 5847
School administrator John Costello, center, walks a group through a tour of the high school to show citizens the updates needed at the school, especially concerning air quality and water leaking issues.

HAZEL GREEN—Air quality and water damage were two major concerns witnessed by a crowd of approximately 50 citizens on a tour of the Southwestern School buildings on June 8. The walk-through was a part of the open discussion the school wanted to create for finding solutions to issues in the buildings.

The school has hired Performance Services of Franklin to assess the facilities.

“They’ve explored our buildings to try and figure out how we can make our school district better,” district administrator John Costello said.

During a preliminary assessment, officials from Performance Services looked at the infrastructure and created a preliminary report. Elaborating on that report, they will now further assess the buildings, develop some solutions and determine cost estimates. Then they’ll assist the school with Act 32 and referendum funding processes to make the updates to the schools.

Jim Wede, business development manager for Performance Solutions, said the schools had a number of issues that need to be addressed: old boilers, air quality issues, roof, fire alarm system, secure entrances, loud rooms in the elementary school, high carbon monoxide levels and non-compliance of ADA in restrooms.

Costello said the high school had a flat roof replaced by covering it with a pitched roof. Now the leak locations are difficult to determine since the water can travel along the flat roof after entering through the pitched roof. To fix the leak, both roofs will likely need to be removed and replaced.

The high school’s air handling system from 1975 is instrumental for circulating fresh air throughout the building. There are four units within the high school; three are original machines, one is newer. There is no air conditioning throughout the school, only in the office. It is recommended to replace this system.

The school faces issues with humidity control. Costello said the humidity can cause slippery floors some days and causes mold in some areas of the school.

“We’re looking for long-term solutions,” Costello said. “We don’t want any more band-aid repairs.”

The funding options for repairs and updates include Act 32—a Wisconsin law that allows schools to exceed the revenue limit for energy efficiency upgrades—as well as a referendum, which could exceed the revenue limit with approval of voters. The differences between the two options are that Act 32 requires the school hire a performance contractor to guarantee the energy savings and Act 32 does not require a majority vote of the school district. The option has been abused by other schools in the past and may no longer be an option in the governor’s next state budget.

Wede discussed the school’s low mill rate. It is currently at $8.11/$1,000of property, compared to the state average of $10.46/$1,000. He said it is significantly lower than other districts in the area.

“Nobody wants higher taxes, but we have some significant needs in our school district,” Costello said.

He said the school can only borrow 10 percent of its equalized value, making starting from scratch not an option. He said the school needs more community input before creating a plan and he’s not ready to go to referendum in November.

The school will be surveying those within the school district to determine taxpayers’ goals and wishes for improving the school. A copy of the survey will be available on the school’s website,, later this week. A special school board meeting will be held on June 22 at 7:30 p.m. at the high school multi-media room. To participate in the survey, go to the school’s website,

Wede estimated that all of the Act 32-qualifying options being considered would cost approximately $6 million.
Issues discussed during the building tours included:

- High school multi-media room: smells from humidity, lighting needs updated, seating needs to be replaced.

- High school office: roof leakage causes continual water damage on ceiling tiles and carpeting.

- High school air handling system: established in 1975, is outdated; there is a hole in the side; if the unit were to go down, there would not be enough oxygen circulated throughout the building since the windows do not open.

- High school computer room: the exterior wall is pulling away from the interior structure due to thermal bowing; there are cracks in the walls throughout the building.

- High school entrances: vestibules added to the entrances would provide additional security as well as save on heating costs in the winter months.

- High school special education classroom: a garbage can is placed near the classroom entrance to catch water that drips from the leaking roof; ceiling tiles are continually damaged from the water.

- High school technology closet (brain room): water damage to the ceiling is a major concern near expensive, important equipment.

- High school science lab: the chemical hood only works sometimes, there are concerns with the outdated eye wash station, there are air quality issues and there is a major crack in an interior wall.

- High school band and choir rooms (located in a separate building): there are noticeable air quality issues as the rooms smell and there is a pest control issue that is continually addressed with professional sprayers.

- High school technical education area (located in a separate building): some equipment doesn’t work well, some not at all.

- High school hallways: many of the lockers need repairs.

- High school boiler room: the room previously held three boilers, but now there are only two; if one went down, there would be an issue heating the building; the boilers, from 1978, are old and inefficient.

- High school bathrooms: all four bathrooms in the high school need upgrades to meet ADA compliance.

- Elementary school air handling units: each classroom is equipped with its own unit, but they are so loud that they often get turned off during lessons, reducing air quality for students.

- Elementary school roof: the flat roof replaced by a pitched one has caused water damage in many parts of the school; buckets placed on students’ desks collect dripping water.

- Elementary school ceilings: the open ceilings in the classrooms make it hard for sound to travel properly, distorting the voices; wind and storms cause excessive noise that the teacher has to talk over.

- Elementary school science lab: the natural gas does not function at the lab stations; science lessons are limited because of the functionality of the lab.

- Elementary school boiler room: there are tunnels dug under the school to run pipes and these tunnels collect water, creating moisture issues that seep into the classrooms above.

- Elementary music room: air handlers are loud, impeding instruction.

- Elementary band room: the official band room is too small for the enormous size of the middle school band, so that room is mainly used for storage and individual lessons; the carpet becomes damp from water leakage; the band rehearses in a space outside the gymnasium, but the acoustics are loud and the space is shared with the physical education classes.

- Elementary school doorways: some doorways have the framing for vestibules, but the second set of doors were removed because of children’s fingers getting pinched; replacing the doors would save heating costs and increase security.

- Elementary school bathrooms: the bathrooms are not ADA compliant.

- Elementary school second boiler room: tunnels create air quality issues in nearby classrooms; the fire alarm system needs to be updated.

- Elementary school air quality: paint is peeling off the walls in some classrooms because of the excess moisture; teachers use dehumidifiers and air conditioning units they purchased themselves to help with air quality in their classrooms.
- Elementary school library: air control needs to be updated; the computer lab does not have air conditioning.