Thursday, August 18, 2016

Questions About the November 8 Referendum

Why is the school district focused on facility needs at our high school?
In 2011, the school district completed a comprehensive analysis of all district facilities.  The analysis identified tier one, two, and three needs throughout the school district.  Tier one needs spanned all schools and totaled $10 million.  These needs were addressed since the study was completed, leaving tier one needs remaining at the high school.  The school district made the decision in 2014 to complete a comprehensive analysis of tier one needs at our high school.  The district is now focused on how to address the substantial needs at our high school.  Both the 2011 and 2014 studies are located on our website.  

Will other schools receive facility upgrades from a successful referendum?
In 2014, the school district completed a safety audit of all schools in the district.   All schools need upgraded entrance systems that meet 2016 safety standards.  Our school entrances are currently not safe.  Consistent with 2016 standards, safe-school entrances allow building staff to “buzz” a visitor into a secure-office area, complete a background check, and then allow the visitor access to the rest of the school.  The school district’s community survey shows more than 85% of responding citizens support safety renovations.    

Why isn’t the school board recommending building a new high school?
The comprehensive cost of a new high school built to serve 1,100 students is in excess of $110 million dollars.  Current needs at our high school equal $48 to $50 million.  There is approximately $60 to $70 million of structural value in our current school.  Our high school is land rich and is conveniently located near a major highway.  The architectural and construction firms the school district has contracted with do not recommend building a new school.  

Is the district proposing a “quick fix” to the needs at the high school?
The November 8th referendum question represents a long term solution to our high school facility issues.  The community survey results show that 68% of respondents support a comprehensive solution to our high-school facility needs.  The referendum question posed to voters on November 8 will address all high-school facility needs and safety-and-security needs across all schools.  The solution the school board is proposing to the the community represents a long-term (25-30 years) solution to our high school facility needs.

How can the public give input?
There are a variety of methods for community members to provide input.  The school district is seeking input through community tours of the high school on August 8 at 6:00 p.m.; September 6 at 6:00 p.m.; October 3 at 6:00 p.m.; October 10 at 7:00 a.m.; and November 1 at 6:00 p.m.  The school district will host a call-in radio show on WBEV at 11:10 on August 23, September 27, and October 25.  The school board hosts a drop-in coffee discussion at Edith’s Cafe the second Thursday morning of each month from 7:30 am to 8:30 am.  The district answers all questions presented on the district’s Facebook page or Twitter account.  Lastly, the school district’s website has an open-comment and question page under the facilities tab that offers anyone in the community opportunity to ask questions or give input. Please check the web page for up-to-the-minute date and times for community input: Public Input Opportunities

How old is the high school?
Our current high school was built in 1958 to house 800 students and approximately 85 staff.  The building currently holds 1,100 students and 110 staff members.  The technology-education wing was built in 1976.

Will the district remove all asbestos from the school as part of a major project?

Is the school district currently working with MPTC, and how can they help with our needs?
MPTC and BDUSD have an excellent working relationship.  Superintendent Steve Vessey meets with representatives from MPTC no less than four times a year.  BDHS offers more than 15 courses where students can earn both high-school and MPTC credit for their work.  On average, more than twenty high-school students spend a portion of their school day at MPTC.  

What was the process the school district used to decide a referendum is needed and for what amount?
Over the course of the 2015-2016 school year, the school board and administration shared information and listened to input regarding whether a referendum is needed to address facility needs at the high school and safety-and-security needs at all buildings in the school district.  A community survey was distributed in May 2015 to all residents of the school district  asking residents if they support a referendum.  The results of the survey shows 73% of all residents approve pursuing a referendum and 68% of residents support a $48.9 million referendum to address high-school and safety-and-security needs.  The board unanimously voted to move to referendum on November 8, based on input from Beaver Dam citizens and the results of the community survey.

How does our high school compare to other area high schools?
BDHS does not compare well with area high schools. BDHS is at a competitive disadvantage attracting students and families when comparing the following facilities:
  • Waupun High School is newly built
  • Dodgeland High School is newly built
  • Randolph High School is currently being built
  • Watertown High School is newly built
  • Ripon High School is newly renovated
  • Sun Prairie High School is newly built
  • Fond du Lac High School is newly built
  • Lomira High School is being built
  • Slinger High School is newly renovated
  • Oconomowoc High School is newly built

Why can’t the district pay for the facility needs at the high school within its current yearly budget?
Comprehensive needs at the high school exceed $40 million; this is more than the total budget for the school district.  While city, county, and state government can increase taxes for building needs, a school district cannot.  A school district can only present the public with a referendum to raise funds for major building projects.

What facility work has the district completed over the past five years?
The school district has completed more than $10 million of facility work since 2011, without asking taxpayers for more resources.
  • $3 million addition to Prairie View Elementary School when Trenton Elementary School closed.
  • $1 million electrical upgrade at the middle school.
  • $1 million rebuild of high-school science labs.
  • $2 million district-wide technology rebuild.
  • $3 million of upgrades to roofs, parking lots, classrooms, and heating-and-cooling systems throughout district schools.

Does the public have access to our high school for non-school related activities?
Our high school was utilized 360 of 365 days in 2015 by community groups for various reasons and activities.  Building use includes walking clubs, youth sports, community meetings, community trade shows, first responder trainings, etc.  Our high school is the most used public facility in the City of Beaver Dam. The proposed high school renovations will increase opportunities for public use of the facility.

How long will an extensive renovation of the high school take?  What impact from the construction will students experience?
A major renovation of the high school will take approximately 15 months, spanning two summers and one school year.  A successful November 2016 referendum would result in a completed high school by fall 2018.  Students would remain in the school during construction.  This is a common project in the State of Wisconsin.  This type of renovation is currently underway at Ripon High School by the construction firm that is consulting with BDUSD.  

What is the proposed completion date of the safety-and-security upgrades?
The project goal is to have major safety and security upgrades completed by September 1, 2017.

How do I know the school district is fiscally responsible?
BDUSD has the lowest tax mill rate in a five (5) county area and has the lowest spending per student in the county.  

How does the achievement of our students at BDHS compare to area high schools?
Beaver Dam High School has been recognized by U.S. News and World Report as one of the top high schools in the country (Silver Award Winner: top 10% of all high schools) in 2015 and 2016.  BDHS is an Advanced Placement Pacesetter School in the State of Wisconsin and a member of the 6th Annual Advanced Placement National Honor Roll.  BDHS has the highest ACT score (2015) in the area, outpacing Oconomowoc, Sun Prairie, Fond du Lac, and West Bend.