November 7, 2017

CFAC’s recommendation for referendum accepted

The Hamilton School Board accepted recommendations of the Community Facilities Advisory Committee (CFAC) to hold a referendum Feb. 20 seeking voter approval for a new intermediate school, high school classroom renovation- addition projects and associated operational costs. The vote was 6-1 in favor with School Board members Dawn Van Aacken, Jennifer Waltz, Deborah Briggs, Brian Schneider, Jay Jones and Gabe Kolesari voting yes and Mike Hyland voting no.School-board-web

Sandi Blackwell and Jamie Schounard, members of the committee, presented the recommendations that corresponded with the latest results from community, parent and employee surveys in which a majority of respondents supported the district’s proposal to increase property taxes for added classrooms to address increasing enrollments and update the high school Applied Engineering and Technology (AET) Program.

The 50-member CFAC began meeting last January to study issues related to housing growth in the community, its impact on school enrollment and the capacity of schools to serve more students. During its study, CFAC concluded that:

  • A potential for significant residential growth in the next five years exists.
  • Enrollment increases of 70+ students per year were projected in March. Actual enrollment increased 144 student in 2017-18. The increased enrollment is creating space issues at all grade levels and all buildings.
  • School building classroom space is being used to near capacity.
  • The high school applied engineering area has not been updated since the school opened in 1962 and equipment is obsolete.

In March committee members presented an interim report in which they recommended that the School Board delay a referendum decision until after another survey could be conducted. Surveys conducted last February indicated many community members and parents were not aware of the pressing need for classrooms districtwide. The committee endorsed reaching out to the community with information about the impact of growth on the schools.

After community outreach, surveys were conducted in October that revealed levels of support increased 5.7 percent (52 to 57.7) among community members and 16.1 percent (57 to 73.1) among parents. Employee support was overwhelmingly high (85+ percent) in both February and October surveys.

After reviewing October survey results, CFAC recommended that the district hold a referendum on the Feb. 20 primary election with two questions. One question would be for $57.4 million of facilities projects that includes:

  • A new $42.9 million intermediate school for all students in grades 5-6. Space would be created at the elementary and middle schools by relocating grade 5 students from all four elementary schools and grade 6 from Templeton Middle School to a new school building.
  • A $9.6 million high school classroom addition to alleviate capacity issues at the high school for the foreseeable future.
  • A $4.9 million renovation of outdated applied engineering classrooms and equipment that are original to the high school when it was built in 1962.

Hyland said he was voting against the committee’s recommendation because he disagreed with having all three facilities projects in one question and wanted voters to be able to choose which projects to approve.

In her presentation, Blackwell said the committee felt the proposal only worked as a package. The Applied Engineering and Technology (AET) project takes three existing classrooms to expand the area. The high school already has nine teachers working from carts who do not have dedicated classrooms. Approval of the AET renovation without the other classroom addition project would create a greater classroom shortage at the high school.

School Board member Deborah Briggs said dividing the questions would be confusing and people may simply vote for the least expensive project “without looking at the big picture.”

The second question would be for $1.5 million of reoccurring operational costs to operate the new intermediate school. While increased enrollment brings in additional state aid that pays for new teachers, additional costs of a new school are not covered. The referendum’s operational costs would fund utilities, insurance, custodians, paraprofessionals, administration, guidance counselor, psychologist, social worker, office staff and health room.

The total cost for the projects and operational costs in the proposal would add $1.37 to the tax rate. Because the Hamilton School District tax rate went down 37 cents this year, the net effect would have been a $1 increase in the tax rate if the costs of the proposal would have been added to 2017 taxes. For the owner of a $300,000 home, taxes would have increased $300.

AODA measures in place to help students, families

Student Assistance Program and AODA Coordinator Kristin Hasbrook presented an annual report to School Board members about efforts to keep students from getting involved in alcohol and other drugs. Providing initial screening and AODA referral services, helping families find appropriate community services and conducting activities in the schools comprised 2016-17 activities.

Middle and high school activities included ongoing individual student support and presentations to students about drugs and alcohol, depression and body image. In addition, selected students received peer trainer instruction for peer depression presentations. “It’s Your Choice” pre-prom presentation was organized for juniors. Districtwide activities involved coordination of the parent network Hamilton Connects and other parent support. Hasbrook completed training for suicide intervention and “Motivational Interviewing” crisis intervention. She also continued to engage with REDgen, an organization that offers training and support to help reduce student suicide and mental health issues.

No space to take Open Enrollment students

School administrators calculated that the district will not have enough classroom space to take additional Open Enrollment students for the 2018-19 school year due to projected resident enrollment. Open Enrollment is a statewide program that allows students to attend public schools outside of their districts if space is available.

School Board election calendar released

The schedule for the 2018 spring election was released. Terms are up for School Board members Dawn Van Aacken, who holds the Lisbon seat, Deborah Briggs, who is in the Butler seat, and Brian Schneider, who holds the Menomonee Falls seat.

The election schedule includes:

  • Jan. 2 – deadline for candidacy declaration and nominations papers;
  • Feb. 20 – primary election if needed;
  • April 3 – spring election; and
  • April 23 – taking of office.

In personnel matters, the School Board:

  • accepted the resignations of district Information Technology (IT) Manager Ryan McMillan, Hamilton special education teacher James Trost and Hamilton cook Mary Lange; and
  • appointed district network-client support technician Ben Hawley as IT manager, effective Nov. 27.