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NG school district eyes referendum
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NEW GLARUS - The New Glarus school board is considering a possible no-tax-impact referendum to deal with maintenance needs, safety/security, and space issues, according to a news release from New Glarus superintendent Jennifer Thayer.

Throughout the past year, the school board and administration has been working on a long-term facilities plan. Replacing roofs, updating the HVAC system, improving safety/security, and creating additional space has risen to the top of the list of priorities, Thayer said.

Roofs and HVAC equipment have met, or in some cases far exceeded, their life expectancy. At the high school, the roof and much of the HVAC equipment is original to the building. At the elementary, the leaky gym roof and a 1957 air handler need replacing.

During the past year, the school district has continued to put a significant emphasis on safety/security in the schools, Thayer said. At the end of last year, an outside safety audit was conducted that reviewed policies and procedures as well as the safety and security of the facilities. The audit found the most significant concern to be that the elementary and high school front offices are not near the entrances. The school board and administration agrees that this is a significant concern and are working with an architect to develop plans for both buildings where the front offices could be located by the front entrances, similar to the middle school office, Thayer said.

The third priority area being considered for a referendum is space at the middle/high school. There are classes of 80-plus moving into the middle school over the next few years, and classes of 50 to 70 leaving. This year alone there was a net increase of 43 students in the middle school, which has already forced the middle school to use some high school space closest to the middle school. In an effort to get ahead of the space challenges, the school district carved two new classrooms and a hallway out of the large middle school/high school library in the summer of 2014. Recently, the district has been working with an architect to see if there are other options for creating more classroom space within the existing structure. The area that has been identified as a possibility is the science wing and a hallway in the high school that could be reconfigured to be four classrooms, instead of two. Adding these two additional classrooms would help put off a larger building project for several years, she said..

Thayer said the district has been fiscally responsible by paying off additional debt and keeping the tax mill rate steady and those measures have put the district in a position to allow the above projects without a tax increase.