Heritage Elementary School

Whether to rebuild or remodel Heritage Elementary School is one of the questions to be answered through the facilities planning process in the next several months.

Anticipating a November 2022 referendum, Waunakee school board members will spend the next several months honing facility plans and costs, a process that will include a community survey this spring and meetings with stakeholders.

The school board has resumed its long-range facility planning, beginning where members left off before the COVID-19 pandemic put the brakes on the process.

School administrators are again examining facility needs, population projections, potential costs and locations for new facilities, said district Superintendent Randy Guttenberg.

The district has contracted with urban planner Mark Roffers to learn enrollment projections; the district’s finance director, Steve Summers, is working with financial advisors; and, administrators are examining facility options and their costs with help from Vogel Bros. Building.

The master plan will address growth and facility needs. In an October presentation to the board, administrators noted that four Waunakee Middle School classes are held in two portable trailers.

“We also want to, in this referendum, look at how do we modernize some of our learning environments? So, that’s anything from as we build new spaces, making sure they meet our current needs and some of our existing spaces, making sure they meet our needs as far as how our programs are growing and evolving,” Guttenberg said.

Some of the modern features include collaboration spaces, small group instruction areas, flexible and adaptable learning environments, facilities that support interdisciplinary or school-to-work programming, and spaces that are more accessible and equitable for all learners, according to the October presentation to the board.

Possible projects

High school projects could include updating the welding lab and ensuring the tech-ed space integrates with the innovation center. A family changing and toiletry area to better accommodate parents with children who may need extra help changing has been identified for the pool. Another focal point will be how to operate the middle school in conjunction with the high school.

Guttenberg described four main pieces to the referendum:

-Heritage is impacted as an elementary space, and the question for the school board will be whether to remodel the building or build anew.

-Resolving space issues at the middle school, where large seventh- and eighth-grade classes exist. The elementary school grade classes are also large.

-Remodeling spaces at the current high school

-Facility maintenance

The district will also ask to exceed the revenue caps for any new facilities’ operational costs, to sustain new instructional programs and for capital maintenance. Those costs will be vetted out over the next two months.

The guiding principles for the master plan are to build for long-range growth with a long-range approach, creating equitable facilities across the district that are flexible, addressing the capital maintenance needs, and delivering value for district taxpayers with projects that reflect community values.

Guttenberg expects options to be vetted out in January and February with board and committee meetings. That will be followed by workshops and community engagement, a community survey this spring on the options, and a board decision on a referendum question to be finalized by Aug. 30 for the November ballot.

Questions to answer

Several questions remain, Guttenberg said.

First, should Heritage be renovated or reconstructed? If it is reconstructed, should it be relocated near the intermediate school?

Secondly, what should the timing be, and what is the best location for a new middle school?

“If you go back to the 2014 referendum, the concept was the new middle school would just go next to the intermediate school,” he added. “The one piece we are seeing as we’ve lived with the intermediate school out there is the amount of traffic. And, now to put another school that generally dismisses around the same time, there’s a little bit of concern with traffic safety.”

While the dismissal times could be changed, the intermediate school site lacks the outdoor space for co-curricular facilities middle school students use, like the high school track or other sports fields, Guttenberg said.

One possibility, if the community decides to build a new Heritage Elementary School, would be to locate that school on the west Woodland Drive site next to the intermediate school.

“It would fit space-wise well, and you don’t have those additional outdoor facility needs,” Guttenberg said.

The district could then build a new middle school on South Street, at the present Heritage Elementary site, allowing the seventh- and eighth-graders to remain near the high school.

“But none of that’s decided. Those are just things that are in the discussion phases,” Guttenberg said. “It’s definitely going to involve Heritage, and it’s definitely going to involve a middle school. It’s kind of timing and where.”

Another piece to be vetted out is how much to spend on capital maintenance, which according to an analysis from early 2020, is estimated at between $24.8 million and $31.2 million. Other renovations are also being considered, with projects to add space at the administration building, the TLC building and the high school.

If the TLC functions were incorporated at the high school, the health center could be located in that building nearby, allowing the district to save on rent it pays for the health center.

“Once we get through January, we’ll be able to start to vet out those options better,” Guttenberg said, adding that the district needs to update its enrollment projections, and examine its own finances.

“We’ve had growth in our community; the Veridian development is certainly a new piece that wasn’t figured in at that other time and is certainly growing,” Guttenberg said about Heritage Hills in Waunakee.

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