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New 10-12 high school recommended by district task force

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New 10-12 high school recommended by district task force
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

When the Hudson School District Facilities Task Force makes its report to the school board next week, the recommendation will include construction of a new 10-12 high school and a new elementary school south of I-94.

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The report concludes six months of work by the 23-member group that was charged with analyzing the district's facilities in light of current enrollment and projected enrollment over the next seven years.

The plan that the task force agreed to present to the school board as its No. 1 choice includes, for $66.5 million:

  • A new K-5 elementary school south of I-94 for $13.5 million;

  • A new 10-12 high school on the 100 acres owned by the district on County UU for $47 million;

  • An addition to North Hudson Elementary School for $4.5 million;

  • Remodeling and expansion of district offices at the current high school at a cost of $1.5 million.

    The plan also calls for potential additions at Houlton Elementary School for another $11.5 million and an addition at the 10-12 high school for an additional $5.5 million around 2013 if enrollment warrants it.

    With this plan, the current Hudson High School would be converted to grades 8 and 9, and the Hudson Middle School would house grades 6 and 7.

    The other plans considered at Monday night's meeting called for:

  • Construction of a new 9-12 high school for $63.5 million as well as a slightly smaller (K-4) elementary school for $12.5 million; and

  • A new 8-9 middle school for $31.5 million with a new elementary school for $13.5 million.

    When the votes were tallied toward the end of the four-hour meeting, the plan that included the 10-12 high school garnered 16 votes, with the 9-12 high school plan getting six votes. The group decided, however, with one exception, that they could all support the 10-12 high school proposal as the best option in their report to the school board.

    The one dissenting member of the task force was Jim Cooksey, who was not at the meeting but sent a written statement saying he could not support any of the options the task force was considering. Cooksey had lobbied at earlier meetings for a plan that called for additions at every district building except Willow River Elementary as a means of handling increased enrollment. Cooksey said he did not accept cost estimates from the group's architectural consultants that said the proposed additions would end up being more costly than construction of a new school.

    Two other members of the group not present sent their votes in writing, indicating they could support any of the three options that the group was considering.

    The proposal decided on was attractive to task force members for a variety of reasons. The price tag on a 10-12 building was $16.5 million less than a four-year high school. A high school is a better use of the 100-acre site and could be converted to a four-year high school if future enrollment warrants.

    Members also said the current high school is well equipped for use by eighth- and ninth-graders because it has all the necessary science labs, technical education classrooms and other facilities that would offer the curriculum opportunities needed by those students.

    Several members said that while they would like to see a 9-12 high school on the 100-acre site, the price tag and size of the school, 2,200 students, was too big. Enrollment projections through the year 2015 estimate the high school population at between 2,128 and 2,174. HHS Principal Ed Lucas, a task force member, said he would like to see a 9-12 high school in Hudson but that 2,200 students was just too many and that using the current high school for grades 8-9 made the most sense to him in terms of "good programming."

    Members generally believed that the 10-12 option offered the district the most flexibility in dealing with enrollment growth over the next decade, with future referendums if needed being supported in part by those that move into the district.

    The task force will present its recommendation and a report of its work at the school board meeting on Tuesday at Hudson Prairie Elementary School beginning at 7 p.m.

    Task force facilitator Linda Schroeder calculated that the group had spent more than 55 hours deliberating on their charge and had considered more than three dozen options, a record number in her experience. She complimented them on their efforts and said they were among the most intelligent groups with whom she had worked.

    School Board President Annette Cook, also a task force member, echoed Schroeder's comments and thanked the members for their diligence and commitment to their task.

    For more information about the findings of the task force, or to speak with a task force member, contact Lois Zezza at (715) 386-4908 or zezzalm@hudson.k12.wi.us.

    Meg Heaton can be reached at mheaton@rivertowns.net

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    Meg Heaton
    Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
    (715) 808-8604
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