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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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School Study Group Has Much Homework To Do

Members of the Peshtigo Middle/High School citizens Building Committee left their meeting Thursday, March 2 with more homework than most students would get in an entire semester.

The 11 members of the committee, founded by former board member Clarence Coble, with the help of Jim Koronkiewicz, who is also a former school board member/president, have volunteered to look independently at the facilities needs of the school and recommend ways they can best be met.

Coble has been elected to chair the group, and Koronkiewicz is serving as a facilitator.

Much of Thursday's meeting involved receiving and briefly discussing thick printouts of studies and reports that have been done in the past, among them one done by Hoffman in 2010 as well as the one Hoffman completed in June of 2016.

There were also reports on information requested by members at the group's first meeting, which was held on Monday, March 12. There also was a copy of the construction manager contract between Hoffman and the school district that was signed on Sept. 2, 2015.

One major concern had been what, if any, obligation the district still has to Hoffman, the consulting/architectural firm that has worked with them through the multiple referendum attempts.

Koronkiewicz had verified that the materials from the studies Hoffman had done were commissioned and paid for by the school district, and remain the property of the district, to be used as the district sees fit.

"At this time there is no obligation from this district to the Hoffman group," Koronkiewicz declared. "They are all paid up....And Hoffman has no obligation to the school district....At this point the doors are open."

As to possible consultants, Koronkiewicz noted this committee could make a recommendation to the board, but whatever was done, if a consultant or architect were to be hired, that would be a board decision.

Coble said Hoffman had offered to come to Peshtigo and meet once with their committee, at no cost to the committee or to the school district.

Koronkiewicz agreed, adding that Hoffman offered to give information on their past activities, but anything new, any new studies that may be desired, would require a new contract, and possibly new cost, and that would be up to the board.

Kleikamp recalled concerns expressed at one of the prior public meetings about access for fire and police protection on the proposed remodeling plan. She wondered if City of Peshtigo Police and/or Fire Departments had ever given an official response to feasibility of the remodeling/expansion plans that had been drawn by Hoffman, and if the committee feels they need one.

Koronkiewicz felt that should be in the analysis done by Hoffman or whoever does the study.

Coble repeatedly referred to the volumes of information in the materials they had just been given, and urged members to study it before their next meeting, which will be at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 14. The meeting will be preceded by a 5 p.m. walk-through of the building for anyone who is interested.

"The 11 of us are here because we feel there are some shortcomings in the school and we want to figure out how to best correct those shortcomings," he declared.

Twice in the past few years Ad Hoc committees and the School Board have recommended building an entirely new school, and twice referendums to finance construction were voted down. The new committee is taking a new look at the needs and possible solutions, independent of the school board, administration and prior consultants.

They are operating independently of the school board, but will report to them monthly, and information is to be exchanged. The committee is not authorized to spend any tax dollars. If at any point they want a study that will have to be paid for, that could only happen if the school board approves their request.

Members in addition to Coble and Koronkiewicz are Megan Chaney, Jeff Hartwig, Rebecca Beavers, Rebecca DeMarce, Christopher Frank, Tricia Kleikamp, Jason Malke, Brian Schroeder and Rick Thill. At the last meeting, Coble was elected chair, Cheney secretary and Hartwig vice chair. Koronkiewicz had told Coble at the outset that he would be a facilitator and do a lot of ground work, but would not be an officer.

The group's mission statement, approved by the board and the committee members is: "Affirm the needs and goals of the Peshtigo Middle/High School and recommend the best way to achieve those needs and goals. Our recommendations may include demolition, remodeling, new construction or a combination of all. Recommendations will be long term solutions that could occur over a period of time."

Coble stressed throughout the meeting that their assignment does not include setting board policy, and that they should try to keep their own personal preferences out of the discussions.

As discussed at the first meeting, the committee plans to tour some new schools, and some that have been renovated recently, with designs and work done by a number of area firms. Coble will provide the bus, and members themselves will cover other costs. Coble suggested scheduling the tour for April, when weather is better, and felt they could perhaps look at five or six schools in a single trip. They want to look at two schools in Oconto Falls, and felt because they are comparatively close, they could do that by car pooling.

Coble had spoken with Zeise and Miron construction about projects they could look at, and they felt Boldt and Hoffman also has projects they should check.

There was a suggestion to look at schools not only in districts of comparable size, but also those with a similar tax base.

Information for the meeting included student count, and there was a request for a history of enrollment.

Coble said Superintendnet Kim Eparvier told him enrollment has remained stable, "They kind of use open enrollment to keep it that way, so they can keep staff levels stable."

An Open Enrollment report distributed at the meeting showed the district benefits financially from having more students coming in from open enrollment than going out. A Feb. 23 report from Eparvier to Coble shows there are 28 students currently open enrolled out, and 155 in. Based on current estimates for this year at $6,640 per student annually, the 155 students coming in generate $1,029,200 while the 28 going out cost a negative $185,920, so the net gain to the district for the current year from open enrollment is $843,280.

Based on the official 3rd Friday count in January of 2017 the district has 1,056 projected net resident students for the 2017-2018 school year.

Those numbers show how class sizes can vary, from 52 listed for first grade next year to 110 projected for fourth grade.

Anyone with questions that need to be answered by school personnel is to funnel them through Coble, Koronkiewicz or Hartwig to avoid duplication of efforts.

Frank wondered if the site of the present school could manage storm water and still meet flood plain requirements. Coble said according to the Hoffman study, a small part of the existing building is in the flood plain, and as long as it is not disturbed, that presents no problem.

Coble said storm water does mostly drain into the creek, but was not sure what effect that has on anything. There seemed to be agreement among committee members that perhaps they should obtain information on that independently.

Kleikamp noted the redesign includes the same number of science classrooms, but they are larger. "What is the right size for a science class room?" she asked. "Are we sure we have the wrong size now? is there a requirement?"

She was old the teachers wanted more storage space, and that brought a comment from another committee member that with more computer technology in use they might need less space, due to using fewer books.

At the last meeting the committee had asked for an update from the Middle School and High School principals on what they felt their needs for improvement were. Coble said he had talked about that with the principals and Eparvier and was told they are standing by the recommendations they had given to Hoffman four years ago. Coble said he will try to get a copy of that report for the next committee meeting.

Kleikamp wondered if some of the space used for offices in the front portion of the existing building could be converted to classrooms, and perhaps a separate office building could be considered.

Koronkiewicz agreed a district office building could be considered, and has been done in other school districts.

Koronkiewicz mentioned a Minneapolis firm called Nexus Solutions was at the Wisconsin School Board convention in February. They do initial assessments from preliminary review through commissioning of the project, "and would be a new set of eyes," he suggested. They are currently doing a remodel type project with the Luxemburg/Casco School District, and are very familiar with legislation and alternative funding mechanisms. He had been told they recently were involved with projects having a total cost of over $300 million and only about $100 million was funded by bonding referendums, "so there are other mechanisms out there." Nexus will do an initial study or analysis for no charge. Koronkiewicz stressed that he is not promoting that firm because they haven't talked with any one else yet, and also felt they should not ask them to come in and do a presentation on what they would do and what it would cost unless they first get a go-ahead from the school board.

One of the committee members mentioned that State Rep. John Nygren would also like to talk to the committee about what the state is or may be preparing to do about funding. They agreed to invite him for a meeting on Monday, April 3.

Koronkiewicz said people from the Boldt group also have some ideas and would like to talk to them. Coble again cautioned against moving too fast, and mentioned that Boldt and Zeise are working together on the NWTC remodeling project in Marinette because it is NWTC policy that the firm that does the design cannot be the one that does the construction.

"I've heard so many comments from the public, so many are asking, "Why does the school only talk with the Hoffman group?'" one of the committee members commented. "We need other opinions!"

Coble said the board went with Hoffman because it was easier, since they are so familiar with the district.

Koronkiewicz said he had heard questions as to whether or not the square feet mentioned in the Hoffman report are accurate, and also had heard numerous comments that it is good to have the firm that does the analysis not even be in line to handle the design and construction work.

Moving on to other considerations, Coble felt he would like to see a report on how often the school facilities are used, and what sorts of problems are encountered in scheduling. He has sixth grade students who don't ride his bus in the morning because the have to be in school by 7 a.m. for practice.

Kleikamp also wondered how often high school classes or extra curricular groups use the elementary school facilities.

Before the meeting adjourned, Coble again admonished, "We're here to look and verify. Over the past two years the public came to believe that not everything was factual... We need to post our own information."

There also had been requests from the public that the committee hold a weekend meeting or two so people who work during the week could attend. Koronkiewicz saw no problem doing that, "But right now we're not ready."

One of the committee assignments is to hold public meetings and keep the public informed.

Koronkiewicz suggested they may need to look for themselves into how wetlands regulations might affect remodeling at the existing school, and also wondered if the new graduation credit requirements have affected the needs in terms of space and numbers of classrooms.

Before the meeting adjourned the committee agreed to meet roughly every two weeks from now until summer, because of commitments many have over the summer months. Coble again urged everyone to study the information they had just received, and come back with questions, suggestions and ideas for the meeting at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 14. Among other things on that agenda will be an update on school sit visits including conversations with Nexus, Boldt, Miron, Zeise and possibly other firms on possible school visits and school studies.


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