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CFAC presents report to School Board

The Hamilton School Board accepted a report from the Community Facilities Advisory Committee (CFAC) Jan. 17 to educate employees, families and community members regarding the facility needs of the district. Once a communication plan is implemented, the committee recommended conducting additional surveys in the future to determine level of support for a potential referendum.

The School Board established the CFAC in October to study community growth, enrollment projections and facilities needs in the district. After reviewing the latest data from municipalities, the committee learned that subdivision development is expected to bring 1,757 new housing units to the district, resulting in an additional 284 students in the next five years.

The committee also reviewed the condition and serviceability of other spaces including middle and high school cafeterias and high school outdoor athletic fields. Before making recommendations to the School Board, the committee sought input in November 2021 from parents and staff on potential facility projects and learned that a large number of people were not aware of the need for new and improved facilities.

Committee members Eric Loferski and Sue Posh, along with Business Services Assistant Superintendent Shelli Reilly and Human Resources Director John Roubik presented the report. Among the facilities needs identified were limited space for additional enrollment at Lannon Elementary School and overcrowded cafeterias at Hamilton High School and Templeton Middle School. 

In addition, the district’s financial situation will be difficult due to the freezing of state aid for 2021-22 and 2022-23. The Legislature froze state aid because school districts were to receive federal COVID relief funding. However, funding was not uniform and Hamilton was allocated a relatively smaller share of the funds. The combination of increased inflation, limited federal COVID relief funding and a two-year freeze to school districts will create a significant financial hardship for Hamilton.

CFAC reviewed more than 10 potential facilities options with five having the greatest consideration. They were:

  • Build a new elementary school on district-owned property on Silver Spring for Lannon students and children from new subdivision development. Willow Spring Learning Center students will relocate to the Lannon school. Cost would be $38 million for the new school and additional costs for minor renovation at Lannon. The Willow Spring building would be sold to offset costs.
  • Renovate and expand the high school cafeteria and kitchen with one option pushing the cafeteria into the current student parking lot ($8.5 million) and another plan to move the cafeteria and kitchen into the current main gym and construct a new gym ($18.3 million).
  • Renovate and expand the Templeton cafeteria and library at a cost of $2.6 million.
  • Update high school athletic field. Because this project received low support in the surveys, the committee recommended having a separate fundraising campaign rather than putting it on a referendum.
  • Develop a plan detailing how additional operational funding would be used based on the state’s plan for future funding.

School Board members expressed their opinions about the projects and operational costs. Mike Hyland said he was concerned about the district’s overall debt and the need to prioritize the high school cafeteria. Brian Schneider said he would like to see a less expensive cafeteria option and better defined operational costs. Jay Jones wants to see the district get ahead of pending increased enrollments from subdivision growth. Gabe Kolesari spoke to the issue of inflation and the difficulty to communicate effectively to all members of the public.

The School Board accepted the CFAC recommendations to present at a future meeting following community outreach efforts and a second round of surveys.