The Swanton Board of Education will soon be faced with a difficult decision. The prospect of again asking district residents to approve a bond issue was discussed at last week’s meeting of the board.
A previous attempt to secure local funding for a building project co-funded by the state was twice rejected by voters. Since then, district officials have been looking into options that would not only be beneficial for the district, but also more palatable to voters.
Swanton Superintendent Jeff Schlade said that in order to take steps toward reducing facilities and getting students out of the Cherry Street building, the board may consider the option of asking voters to approve local funding for a new K-6 building next to the high school, which is Plan A. “Plan A stems from the input we received from folks that took the time to communicate to us through attending informational meetings in the past,” said Schlade.
That option would also include moving students in grade 7 and 8 into the high school. Issues with the boiler and other areas of the current middle school are among the concerns.
It is possible that, if approved, a new school would be located directly behind the high school in the current parking lot. The project would be partially paid for with state money.
If, a bond issue does not pass, Schlade said that Plan B could be necessary. That would include moving the seventh and eight grade students to the high school and reconfiguring the PK-6 students in a way that may require the use of double wide modular classroom units on one of the campuses.
“The concept has been talked about before. It’s time to put that out to the public, in my estimation, as far as, ‘what are we going to do if it doesn’t pass?’” Schlade said at the meeting.
There was also a Plan C that included adding onto an elementary school. New board member David Smith spoke in favor of adding onto a current elementary building.
“It’s a good option,” said Smith. “Voters might go for that. Most of the people I’ve talked to want the high school paid off before they start talking about another building levy.”
The original Plan C called for making Crestwood School house grades PK-4, and Park School grades 5-8, and was the least popular of the option among residents who attended informational meetings, according to Schlade.
Cost estimates from 2014 for the local share of funding were $8.1 million for Plan A, including demolition and no locally funded initiatives, and $4.6 million for Plan C, not including demolition. The demolition was estimated to cost $2 million when including the cost of buttoning up spaces that will still be used, such as Fisher Gymnasium, bringing the total to approximately $6.6 million.
In addition to getting updated figures, board member Kris Oberheim said that it was important to get all the costs before a decision is made. “And I think we would need to have absolutely, every figure thrown in there so that there would be no surprises.”
After more discussion, the talk came back to adding onto an elementary building with Smith saying he would vote for that option.
“All I’m saying is, right now, the need is to eliminate the junior high building,” said Smith. “What is the cheapest way to do that, without buying mobile homes?”
District treasurer Joyce Kinsman had another way of looking at it.
“From a fiscal perspective, there’s what’s the cheapest way but also what’s the best solution for the district long term… Will our two buildings that we add on to last the district another 40-50 years when for an extra $2 million we can have a new building?”
Drew Stambaugh can be reached at 419-335-2010