Herald and Journal, June 28, 1999

Public asked to ignore rumors of school closing

By Andrea Vargo

There are a lot of rumors out there regarding the closing of the Winsted Elementary School, board member Leo Weber told the HLWW School Board last Monday.

His statement reinforced the same sentiments put forth by board member Charles Weber.

Charles also told the board, "My feeling is we should look at the option of retaining students. I think we should add rooms to Winsted and have K-6 there to prevent any more open enrollment."

Acting chairperson Mary Pettit said this was just one of many good suggestions the Long Range Facilities Task Force is hearing. The task force is trying to determine the building needs of the school district.

But, Pettit said that people should slow down and let the task force process work.

If people have questions, they should call a school board member, rather than listen to rumors, she said.

Referring to the Winsted school, board member Michael Steckelberg said, "That building will be open next year, the year after that, and the year after that. That school will be open for the next four years."

Board and task force member Randy Heuer said, "We want to get something (accurate information) out there, but we want it to be complete to the point we (task force) are at the time."

He said the task force is only talking about ideas at this time.

"Every time we ask a question, two more questions surface," said board member Jim Fowler.

The task force asked for permission to hire Schroeder Communications to assist with securing formal public input, and Fowler said he supported that.

"I see with Schroeder someone who can provide communications from the public to the school board and from the school board to the public," he said.

Pettit said "We need to let the taxpayers know what we are thinking. There is this large picture, and we are trying to put together a lot of pieces."

Heuer was also for the idea of retaining Schroeder.

He told the board, "One of the things we have tried to do is to set aside our political differences, but we can't do that anymore. We need help."

The board then authorized the task force to spend up to $12,000 on Schroeder Communications.

Possibly included in the cost would be a comprehensive, informational brochure, telling the public where the task force is at this time, said Superintendent Riley Hoheisel.

The task force wants to confirm that district residents understand the need for a new facility, regardless of location, and wants to test public response to proposed costs and tax impacts.

It wants to explore the issues related to public perception and public preferences.

The task force wants to make sure its final recommendation is viable, sound, clearly understood, and worthy of serious consideration by the residents of the district, according to the task force update.

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