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Langlade County News

School District of Antigo Plans Another Vote On New Elementary Complex April 3

January 12, 2012

The Antigo school board, on a very close vote, will try again to construct a central elementary school.

At a special meeting Tuesday, the board voted 4-3 to repeat its $24 million school referendum in conjunction with the spring general election on April 3.

In favor were Board President Gary Kieper, who broke a 3-3 tie, Sally Cahak, Roseann Hoffman and Miles Stanke.

“I think the best chance of passing this is running it right away,” Kieper said, stressing it was a difficult decision.

Opposed were Beth Bockes, Mike Boldig and Joe Kretz, who suggested the board should take more time before repeating the attempt.

Dr. Gary Hegranes and Andy Merry were absent.

The board will hold a special meeting next Monday evening to begin the legal paperwork process to get the issue on the ballot.

“It’s what should be done for the good of the Antigo school district and the children of the school district,” Kieper said.

The $24 million elementary building plan lost by just 56 votes in November, prompting supporters attending a board meeting a few weeks later to urge another try.

“It’s much too important an issue to shut the door and walk away from,” former board member Joe Schroeder said at the board’s Nov. 22 meeting. “It’s the right thing to do for our community.”

Other agreed.

“We came really close,” Matt Shinners said, suggesting that if the board repeated the referendum, more people—including college-age students eligible to vote through absentee ballots—might hit the polls.

“There is the potential of putting more people out there to vote, and they would vote yes,” he said. “It would take more effort.”

Kieper said that, with Tuesday’s decision, it is time for those parents of school-age children to promote the plan, calling it key to any success.

At that time, parents said there was also a feeling that some rural residents voted against the referendum because they felt the board was bluffing when it warned of the dramatic grade shifts that would result if it failed.

Kieper said that planning for those shifts will continue.

The consolidation option calls for melding the district’s seven elementary facilities into the city’s North, West and East Elementary Schools. Each building will house students in pre-kindergarten through grade three with an average class size of 26 students. The Middle School will be reconfigured for grades four through seven, from its current grade six to eight setup. The high school will be expanded to include grade eight.

The referendum plan seeks $24 million to replace all seven small elementary schools with one central facility that would be constructed near the present high school.

Board officials have repeatedly stressed that the new school would assure all students in the district equal educational opportunities, ending the days, for example of fifth grade music classes nudged in the corners of gymnasiums or art programs operated out of storerooms. It will also offer vastly improved facilities, including access to the Clara R. McKenna indoor aquatic center.

The central site near the high school would also allow consolidation of staff and resources, bringing operational savings of $1.3 million a year, a savings that officials said is vital to the future economic health of the school district.

Although some tweaking of the final design is possible, the proposed school would be a 150,340 square foot building, with 160 to 240 students per grade level and a total capacity of 960 to 1,440. It would be divided into sections, or pods, based on the various grades, with 10 classrooms per section.

If the referendum is successful, the facility would be opened in fall, 2014.

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