The Lake Mills Area School District current and projected enrollments indicate the elementary school is already overcapacity. Building an intermediate school for grades 3-5 would alleviate the capacity issues at the elementary school, which would house grades 4K-2 if a fourth school is built.

A need for more space will have the Lake Mills Area School District asking voters if they would support building a new school.

The district hosted facility planning public information sessions last week; one in-person at the high school on Oct. 4 and a virtual session on Oct. 6.

“Our district is growing and that is why we are presenting here today,” said District Administrator Tonya Olson during the virtual session.

Eric Dufek, a senior designer at eu:a said the proposed intermediate school would be built on the southside of the city on property already owned by the district at the intersection of Highway 89 and Unzhaven Lane. This would place the building adjacent to St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and School.

The site would provide enough space if there would need to be a future addition to the intermediate school, Dufek said.

He said if a spring referendum would be conducted and passed, the design phase would occur into early 2023 followed by construction. The expectation would be having the new school opened and all grade shifts completed by the start of the 2024-25 academic year.

Peter Saindon, a project manager with Findorff, said the most recent figure puts the construction of the new building and site work plus some minor renovations at the elementary school at $33-$36 million. Saindon pointed out this was a pre-referendum budget to consider but was not the final construction cost. The figure also does not include the annual operational costs for a fourth school.

District Director of Business Services Tasha Naylor said the plan is to have a pair of spring 2022 referendum questions presented to the school district voters – allowing the district not to exceed $36 million for a new building and a second question about accepting an additional yearly increase in operating costs not to exceed $750,000.

Based on the estimates, Naylor said the total mill rate impact on the presented figures would be $1.10 per $1,000 of property value. This would be on top of the annual mill rate set by the district.

Much like previous building project referendums presented by the school district, a survey will be sent out to the community to gauge support. Olson said the board would be presented to the school board in December. If the board chooses to move forward with a referendum, it would need to authorize it no later than Jan. 25, 2022.

“The support from the community has been the factor that’s helped us continue to make Lake Mills a destination school district in the state,” Olson said.

Capacity limitations

District Director of Teaching and Learning Amanda Thompson explained moving the third through fifth grade to a different building, that is being referred to as intermediate school, would free up space at the elementary school.

The elementary school would house all sections of grades 4K-2; the middle school would return to housing grades 6-8 and the high school would retain the grades 9-12 student population.

The elementary school currently houses all kindergarten through fourth grades. Due to space constraints, the building can only host half of the 4-year-old kindergarten classes, Thompson said. The other 4K students attend school off-site at the United Methodist Church.

Lake Mills also partners with Head Start, the federally-funded preschool program run through Jefferson County, Thompson said. She said having Head Start at the elementary school has allowed families enrolled in the program to become part of the building family “right off the bat.” However, due to lack of space, this year’s Head Start has to be held at Rock Lake Activity Center.

Furthermore, the lack of space does not allow the district to offer wraparound care, or a childcare option for families who have students in 4K where the student attends class for half the day and remains at the elementary school for childcare the other part of the day.

Thompson said if the intermediate school is built, the elementary school would have enough space for all of the 4K classrooms, provide 4k wraparound care, and be the local site for Head Start. It would continue to be the local site for early childhood and provide before and after-school care for grades 4K-2.

She added the intermediate school would also offer before- and after-school care for grades 3-5.

Dufek said the new elementary school was never meant to be the final solution. According to him, Prospect Elementary School needed to be replaced and Lake Mills Elementary School was to serve as an immediate replacement that would offer a bit more student capacity than the former facility. He also acknowledged the district knew at that time it would need a fourth school.

While the elementary school is currently the only building over capacity projections show by 2035-36, the middle school will be beyond capacity if it continues to house the grade 5-8 students. Based on data presented at the meeting, the 488-student capacity building will have a projected enrollment of 521. The district showed a building is within capacity if it has 25 more or fewer students than the actual facility capacity; the middle school as a grade 5-8 building would reach that limit in 2027-28. Moving one grade level from the middle school would alleviate the capacity issues.

The district had looked at other options such as a second elementary school but determined an intermediate school for grades 3-5 would be the best solution.

The full facilities presentation is available on the LMASD website, https://www.lakemills.k12.wi.us/district/community-information-session-on-faculties-.cfm

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