Poynette Elementary School

Second grade teacher Jane Feuerstein organizes her Poynette Elementary School class after school. Feuerstein teaches up to 21 students in an approximately 600 square foot classroom. Some educational recommendations say classrooms should be 1,000-1,100 square feet. A possible elementary school referendum would build a new school with larger classrooms.

The Poynette School District is preparing to unveil a survey that will guide a referendum that could include a new elementary school.

The survey is one of the final moves of a Community Facilities Advisory Committee, which has been meeting for months to identify priorities for a referendum. As the survey launches, the committee will also hold public forum March 7 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Poynette High School Instructional Media Center.

The committee’s charge is to eventually make a recommendation to the Poynette School Board, which could then become a voter referendum in November.

The survey will be mailed to households in the second week of March and will be due at the end of March. It will help guide the committee as it prepares a solution.

Planning for the future

One of the common themes in committee discussions has been the need for a new elementary school, which could be built on already-owned district land near the Poynette Fire Station.

Plunkett Raysich Architects developed different options to deal with district facilities. One plan to build an elementary school, for example, would cost $22.6-$25 million. Committee members discussed incorporating flexible, modern teaching environments as well as a soccer field and two ball fields, according to a committee presentation.

Members also examined closing Arlington Early Learning Center, renovating the current Poynette Elementary/Middle School for middle school usage and expanding Poynette High School.

In the middle and high school, committee members prioritized needs including maintenance issues, incorporating flexible and modern teaching environments and adding fine arts and multipurpose spaces. They also discussed adding a high school auditorium, which would cost an estimated $6.7-7.4 million, as well as community spaces, additional breakout teaching spaces, a larger IMC and a renovated and expanded cafeteria.

A November referendum would ask voters to fund any building projects with an increase in the tax levy.

According to estimates by finance company Baird, a $30 million referendum, for instance, would increase the mill rate (the taxes per $1,000 of property value) by a maximum of $1.89 for 20 years. This would mean up to $189 more per year in property taxes for a $100,000 home. Superintendent Matt Shappell said the numbers are conservative, so the actual impact could be less.

Poynette’s current mill rate is one of the lowest in the area, according to figures provided by financial group Baird. At $9.06 per $1,000 of property value, it’s several cents lower than Portage, Baraboo and Columbus and over $2 less than Lodi and Rio.

Maintenance needs

The district began the facilities solutions process in April, after a J.H. Findorff & Son, Inc. study said it would cost roughly $10 million over 10 years to maintain current facilities.

Committee member Jamie Pauli said some of the district’s primary needs are maintaining and upgrading facilities. He also sees a need for improving entrance security, increasing Americans with Disabilities Act compliance and reducing overcrowding in the elementary/middle school.

He said building a new elementary school is one of the committee’s biggest options, especially because it would target overcrowding.

“It may not solve all the problems out there, but it would also help with definitely the capital maintenance costs,” Pauli said. “Obviously, maintaining a new facility is far cheaper than maintaining ones that we built in the ‘50s.”

The committee also examined many other possibilities and members were largely against pursuing them further. These included renovating Arlington Early Learning Center, building a new high school and renovating all buildings without any new projects.

Pauli said there are still many options available to address the facility needs.

“I would say that we all want what’s best for the students, but at the same token, all of us are understanding of the tax impact and want to have a something that is cost effective for all the taxpayers,” he said.

The survey can be completed either on paper or online. It will ask homeowners in Poynette about their priorities for a future referendum and how much more they are willing to pay in taxes.

State of the facilities

Many of the current Poynette School District facilities were originally built in 1950s and 1960s, with subsequent additions and renovations.

Superintendent Matt Shappell said education has changed over the years. For instance, some of the classrooms in Poynette Elementary are less than 650 square feet, but educational standards recommend that elementary school classrooms be 1,000-1,100 square feet.

“That allows space for different stations, for different learning areas where there can be experiential ed and hands-on ed … small group instruction while one-on-one instruction’s going on,” Shappell said.

Some of the needs, he said, are based on the world today.

“The expectations of our students ... have become much greater,” Shappell said. “A graduate in 2018 needs to be a master of many more skills than 20 years ago…. We’re not competing just with Portage or Lodi or DeForest or Madison anymore; it truly is a global experience.”

For example, technical education, he said, is no longer only about, “I’m going to teach you to put two-by-fours on 16-inch centers,” but also about high-tech skills like using 3D printers.

Clarification: An earlier version of this article stated that an Elementary School referendum was likely. This has been a major conclusion of the community committee, but nothing has been decided. 

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