The future of HLWW middle school is up to voters, Nov. 4

September 15, 2008

The district asks voters to decide what makes sense: investing substantial amount of money into current middle school or building new

By Caroline Wigmore
Staff Writer

As the opportunity for voters to voice their opinions on the future of the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted Middle School approaches Nov. 4, the school board is working to educate the public on the issues.

The question to voters will be:

“Should a minimum of $7.1 million be spent on needed repairs at the middle school, or should the district build a new middle school for about the same cost, which would be attached to the new HLWW high school?”

Simply put, voting “yes” on the ballot Nov. 4 will mean that a new middle school will be added on to the HLWW high school, and voting “no” will mean that money will be invested into maintaining the current middle school. Both options will have a tax impact on local residents.

The current middle school is approximately 80 years old, and according to Superintendent George Ladd, the building has held up considerably well, but it is indeed showing the signs of its age.

“[The community] got more than its money’s worth out of this old building,” Ladd said.

Renovations needed at the middle school have been known for quite some time and have been discussed at public meetings with minutes dating back to 2004.

The non-structural deficiencies at the middle school have been studied by an independent contractor, Energy Services Group (ESN) since 2005. The most serious problems were determined to be poor air quality, heating and cooling systems, plumbing, energy management and ventilation as the costliest updates, estimated at $7.1 million.

Middle school principal Brad Sellner and Ladd agree that there would be some cost cutting advantages if the middle school and high school were combined. As of now, teachers of many classes, such as ag, industrial, art and music have to travel between the two schools every day, which means that travel costs are higher and much time is spent on the road instead of in the classroom.

Custodial costs would also be lowered, as some classrooms such as the art room would be shared between the high school and middle school. The bus routes would be shorter and the activity bus would have less routes.

“A new building would offer us a more comfortable environment that is conducive to learning, with heating and cooling of rooms that is controllable and comfortable; lighting that is adequate and pleasing and power and technology resources to use more technology in the classroom,” Sellner said.

Departments such as ag would be able offer outdoor activities, as the land surrounding the high school has ample space for plant life.

The funds to do updates on the current middle school do not require voter approval, but the district did not feel comfortable spending such a large amount of money without first asking the public if it would make more financial sense to build new.

Ladd asks voters; “What makes sense to you?”

If voters vote “yes” to building new, the idea is to demolish the middle section of the current middle school and maintain the north and south ends for use. The north end would continue functioning as a gym and Humphrey Hall, as it is s used by the community. The south end would be maintained with the idea that with future population growth, Howard Lake would need an elementary school.

An information meeting will be conducted Tuesday Sept. 16 at 7 p.m.

An informal meeting on the middle school referendum will be conducted Tuesday, Sept. 16 at 7 p.m. in the HLWW high school. The public is encouraged to attend this meeting to get more information on the issues.

Do you know more about this subject, or have a comment? E-mail: news@heraldjournal.com