School referendum: Beyond the price tag
BY MIKE WARREN
Part IV of V
MARSHFIELD – All seven Marshfield schools would see improvements, should voters approve a $99.5 million facilities referendum April 4. As our series continues, we take a closer look at the proposed plans for Marshfield Middle School and the district’s five elementary facilities.
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 major part of the work at the middle school is with the plumbing system,” said Dr. Ryan Christianson, during a recent program Hub City Times produced in cooperation with Marshfield Broadcasting. “In fact, when we ran the community survey back in November this last fall to get feedback from the community on whether to move forward with this referendum, we had a specific question about investing money in upgrading the plumbing system at the middle school, and the results of that community survey were favorable,” Christianson added. “The answer we got on that question is ‘yes’, that people would support that.”
Christianson noted much of the middle school’s plumbing system is original to a building that dates back to the late 1930s.
“We’re doing a lot of maintenance work on it, and our maintenance crew does very good work, but a lot of this material is so aged they go in to fix stuff and it just kind of crumbles and falls apart, and you can only continue to deal with that patchwork so far to where you really need to change the overall infrastructure of that plumbing system,” Christianson said.
“Like all systems for plumbing, they’re buried,” says current School Board Vice-President Dan Neve, who spent nearly four decades working in the construction and building trades industries. “They’re hidden in the walls, they’re underneath the floors. So, for us to do the bathrooms, when you walk in the bathrooms in the middle school you walk in and you realize you took a step back in time,” Neve adds. “Many of them are not ADA-compliant, so we’ve got to do that, plus fix the plumbing pipes and get things up to standards, and I think it’s one of those things we have to address.”
Each of the district’s five elementary schools would also see improvements under the referendum plan. The largest of those projects would occur at Grant Elementary, where the plan is to replace the roof and windows, add air conditioning to areas which currently do not have it and reconfigure the entrance to include a relocated and secure office entry point.
“Grant School is the (elementary) school that we’ve identified as having the greatest needs,” says Christianson. “It’s important to begin with reminding people that Grant Elementary School, which may seem like a new building, is already 30-plus years old. The building was on-boarded in 1992.”
Christianson adds that an air-conditioning upgrade is one of the biggest needs at Grant, which serves as the hub of activity for the district’s elementary-level summer school program.
“When the building was built it was set up with air conditioning only on the internal part of the building,” Christianson points out. “So, it’s just the internal portions of the building that have air conditioning. The exterior classrooms do not. The intent in the design from the early 90s when this was constructed is that the cool air from the interior would filter out and hopefully cross the hallways and maybe make its way into other parts of the building. That’s, first off, not a very efficient system, but secondly, that pre-dates a lot of the school safety measures we have in place now,” Christianson adds. “We operate during the school day with doors closed and locked, so that in particular really is not an effective system anymore. On top of that it’s important because Grant Elementary School is the location of our summer school program, so we have a large number of kids that are in there during the hot months of the summer that would really benefit from a more thorough coverage of air conditioning within the building.”
The main focus of the work at Grant would relocate the main office to the front of the building, and would essentially swap places with a current music room.
“Grant Elementary School is our only elementary building where the main office is not located at the front entry of the building,” Christianson notes. “So, the plan is to flip-flop those areas – music and the main office – to relocate the main office to the front entry with a proper secure entry that would allow visitors to enter directly into the main office.”
Other work planned for Grant includes kitchen remodeling.
“Grant School is twice the size of our other elementary buildings and we continuously are serving more and more meals at all levels and the kitchen facility needs some work to put us in a position to better serve students meals at Grant School,” added Christianson.
The final phase of work slated for Grant includes a reconfiguration of the parking lot and the circle drive, to make for a more efficient and safer drop-off/pickup area.
At the nearly 70-year-old Lincoln Elementary at 17th-and-Felker, the plan is to replace aging and deteriorating plumbing systems and add air conditioning to areas which currently do not have it.
“The renovated new portions of the building, which includes the main office and the library, are the only areas that are currently air conditioned, so the idea here, for improved learning space for our kids, is to outfit the full building with air conditioning,” Christianson said.
He adds the plan would also replace original plumbing dating back to when the school was constructed in 1957.
“We have original plumbing systems in place there that really are due for replacement to put that building in a better operational mode,” Christianson adds.
The referendum plans also call for roof replacement, as needed, at Nasonville Elementary.
“I think it’s important to remind people that building is already more than twenty years old,” says Christianson. “It was built in 2001 and we have parts of the roof that need to be replaced.”
Christianson adds the plan at Nasonville also calls for a reconfigured drop-off/pickup area.
“The traffic out on Highway 10 is not getting any lighter,” he says. “That’s an area that obviously is a safety concern, so the improvements at Nasonville do involve expanding the parking lot area, expanding the circle drive, installing a better-dedicated turn lane on the westbound lane of Highway 10 to make for a safer arrangement for parents dropping off in the morning, as well as when cars start to line up for pickup at the end of the day,” Christianson added. “The circle drive situation and traffic congestion was the No. 1 identified need of improvement at Nasonville Elementary.”
The district’s newest schools are Madison and Washington elementaries, both built in 2006, and each would see minor upgrades.
At Madison, the referendum would allow for an expanded parking lot and the addition of a sidewalk on the north side of the school. At Washington, Christianson says there is a need for a special-needs bathroom that was not installed at the time the school was built in 2006.
The district has information related to the referendum on its website atwww.marshfieldschools.org/referendum.