School referendum: Beyond the price tag
BY MIKE WARREN
Part III of V
MARSHFIELD – As our series on the Marshfield School District’s proposed $99.5 million referendum and facilities improvement plan continues, we take a closer look in this edition at the athletic and operational building system improvements planned for Marshfield High School.
The proposed improvements were identified by the district’s Community-Based Facility Planning Committee, a group of school officials and residents who have been working since May 2022 to create a new, long-range facility plan for the district.
The fieldhouse wing of the MHS campus would see significant changes under the proposed plan.
“When you look at our current footprint – the 1968 footprint – we had a single-gender sport, and we didn’t have all the offerings that we do now, even in that single-gender sport,” said Athletic Director Nathan Delaney, during a recent program Hub City Times produced, in conjunction with Marshfield Broadcasting. “So, fast forward to the 70s and Title IX and the addition of some of the other sports that are indoors, particularly gymnastics and swimming, it kind of puts stress on a facility that was built 55 years ago.”
The proposal includes an expanded swimming deck space along the east side of the pool. “To watch a swim meet right now you have to watch it from the fieldhouse,” Delaney points out. “That creates its own set of safety and logistical issues. Not necessarily a great viewing environment for our spectators.”
There’s also a plan to add a new fitness and weight room facility onto the south side of the fieldhouse, expanded and renovated boys’ and girls’ locker rooms along the east side and new bleachers, which would replace the original, wooden ones installed 55 years ago.
Terry Frankland, a member of the Facility Planning Committee which identified the district’s needs, said the improvement plan should be looked at as more than just new or better facilities for students, parents and the Marshfield community.
“Being a former businessman in Marshfield, we have to be aware it’s a marketing tool,” Frankland said. “Families moving to this community, with Highway 10 being four-lane to Stevens Point, and basically four-lane now to Wausau, people say, ‘Well, I’m going to work for a facility in Marshfield, but…this high school has more to offer than our high school, and they’re more updated.’ We need to be aware of that,” he adds. “It’s a big marketing tool to have state-of-the-art equipment.”
Superintendent Dr. Ryan Christianson is quick to point out the proposed improvements in the athletic spaces at MHS are not geared toward just sports programs.
“It does include our regular physical education curriculum as well,” he says. “I think it’s important to note that the variety of P.E. courses and the diversity of curricula within those P.E. courses that we have today is so much more expansive than it was years ago. And, with a growing emphasis on fitness-based, life-long physical activity, learning and development, we’re doing some very innovative things already with our P.E. curriculum, and we could do even more with a fitness center like we’re proposing to build,” Christianson adds. “We have a lot of kids who are not in any of our athletic programs that are very heavily focused on physical fitness and improving the body and mind collectively.”
The portion of the base plan covering Marshfield High School also calls for replacement of the fieldhouse flooring, scoreboards and lighting.
Plans also call for major upgrades to the operational parts of the building within the walls and floors of the facility.
“We have approximately 27,000 square feet of mechanical room space at Marshfield High School, much of which is in the lower-level basement area of the building,” Christianson says. “That is a significant component of the work that is planned for the high school with this facility referendum, is to replace heating, ventilation, air-conditioning systems that are coming up on 55 years of age,” he adds. “A cooling tower for the air-conditioning system alone that is under constant repair, and really is past its life expectancy and needs to be replaced.”
“It’s actually a miracle that this equipment is still running,” says current School Board Vice-President Dan Neve, who spent nearly four decades working in the construction and building trades industries. “We have to realize that the high school, or all of our schools, are not a home. They’re a commercial space, industrial space, that runs on big systems,” Neve adds. “And these systems have been there for 55-plus years. And it’s actually amazing to me that we still have been able to keep them running. If we don’t address the inner workings, we’re going to have problems.”
Regardless of whether the referendum passes, Neve says many of the operational aspects of MHS will need replacing sooner than later, and those are parts you simply cannot get shipped overnight, next week or even next month.
“MCCs (mechanical control centers) have a nine-month to a year waiting list right now,” Neve says. “So, if we had a failure with one of these the school could be shut down for a year’s time waiting for equipment. We’ve been lucky that we haven’t had a failure.”
Christianson says it would be at least that long before any work would start at the high school, should the referendum be successful.
“Given the size of the work that needs to be done at the high school, we’re talking about a minimum 15-month construction schedule period,” Christianson says. “We’d also like the public to understand that, if this referendum is passed in April, it’ll be a full year before we’re breaking ground and starting the construction work itself because we need to go through the fine-detailed design of the work, a construction schedule needs to be put in place, we need to go to bid and order the type of equipment and material that Dan is referring to,” Christianson points out. “So, that’s another component to planning. This is going to take a while.”
Christianson says other planned improvements at the high school fall under the category of energy efficiency, by replacing ceiling fixtures and aging windows and upgrading lighting to energy-efficient LEDs.
District officials will hold a community informational meeting on the proposed improvements on Monday, March 20 at 6 p.m. in the Marshfield High School library, with an optional building tour to follow. The district also has information related to the referendum on its website at www.marshfieldschools.org/referendum.