By Jennifer Gallus
Voters will be asked in November about issue
A choice will be asked the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted School District this November:
Does the district want to invest a considerable amount of money into the current middle school that was built more than 75 years ago or should the district build a new middle school onto the new high school, as always planned, for almost the same amount of money it would take to alleviate severe deficiencies at the middle school?
The school board decided at last Monday’s meeting that it would ask the voters through a special election Tuesday, Nov. 4 how to proceed regarding the possibility of building a new middle school onto the new high school at a cost not to exceed $8.4 million.
Deficiencies at the current middle school have been known for quite some time, and have been talked about at public meetings dating back at least as far as 2004, according to minutes from public workshops.
Every conceptual drawing of the new high school, even back when it was proposed to be built along Highway 12, has a future middle school addition depicted. However, the focus and excitement at those public meetings usually centered around “the new,” HLWW District Supt. George Ladd told the Herald Journal.
“People wanted to know about the new high school and the new additions to the elementary schools,” Ladd explained.
Back in 2004, the school board, with the help of public input, prioritized what needed to be done to the then three school buildings in the district. It had been decided that since the public insisted they wanted their elementaries to stay in their respective communities, that they needed renovation, according to Ladd.
Waverly’s elementary was built in 1955 and Winsted’s in 1964, and because those buildings were not conceived as too old, it made sense to the board and the public to renovate those buildings.
The oldest part of the middle school, which is the middle part of the building, was built in 1930. It had several additions made to it beginning in 1947, then in 1954, and again in 1966 (Humphrey Hall).
Discussion about demolishing the oldest section of the middle school, which needs a lot of repair, has dated back to at least 2005 with the idea of saving the two extremities, Humphrey Hall and the old k-3 elementary with the goal of giving back an elementary school to Howard Lake.
The demolished middle section would have a breezeway built through it until some day growth dictated a new addition to the elementary, which would occur in that demolished area, according to Ladd.
As part of the new high school bond that passed in 2006, the renovations to the two elementaries were included in that bond, as well as an allowance to re-roof the current middle school and update certain aspects of the Humphrey Hall section of the middle school such as floors, energy efficient lighting, and painting.
“We needed to do roof repair here (at the middle school) immediately to save the building it was leaking in numerous areas,” Ladd said.
Knowing that the middle section would likely be demolished in the next 10 years, as discussed at public school board meetings, the board decided to save money by having a 10-year roof repair on the middle section of the middle school, and a 30-year roof put on the two extremities of the building that were earmarked to always stay part of the community.
“The board wanted to protect the parts of the building that would be here long term,” Ladd said.
An independent contractor, Energy Services Group (ESN), has been studying the non-structural deficiencies at the middle school since 2005. Serious problems that need to be addressed in the near future include indoor air quality, heating and cooling systems, plumbing improvements, energy management, with ventilation being the biggest and costliest piece in the estimated $7.1 million project, according to a facility assessment findings report by ESG,
“Even if we made those changes to the middle school, you wouldn’t see anything structurally different here not one brick moved, not one window replaced,” Ladd explained.
Of course an aging structure would, and the middle school does, have many structural deficiencies, including handicap accessibility, but none of that would be included in the said project that carries a hefty price tag.
Such improvements could be funded by non-voter approved funds that the school could employ, but the school board did not feel comfortable spending that amount of money on an aging structure without asking the taxpayers.
“There’s ways to do certain projects without going to the taxpayers we could do that $7 million project but why spend that much when back in 2005 and 2006 we talked about demolition?” Ladd said. “Each year it gets more expensive. It’s wiser to build something for almost the same amount of money that will last 70 to 80 years.”
The fact that the original boiler is still working today proves that the school has been well maintained, Ladd said, but because of the age of the school and the parts that need replacing are costing more and more.
In fact, replacement parts for items such as heating units in the school rooms aren’t even available anymore; they have to be specially manufactured.
“It just makes more financial sense to build new than to put a large amount of money into this old section of the school. If the voters say no to the new school, then we will have no choice but to spend that money (non-voter approved) to keep this school running,” Ladd said.