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Our View: School plan will have to be fast-tracked to meet fall referendum goal

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opinion River Falls, 54022
Hudson Star Observer
715-386-9891 customer support
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

The quest for a new site for a high school/secondary school continues.

The dog track is off the table, the district has officially put a for sale sign on the UU property, and the land, offered a while back from the golf course, has already been deemed as unbuildable. If anything is going to happen soon, it will require some quick decisions.

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The latest dog track proposal ended with an apparent amiable understanding between the city and school district. In a letter, signed by both School Board President Jamie Johnson and Mayor Al Burchill,everybody seemed happy. The last sentence in the letter read: As leaders of both entities, we will continue to work together to find an appropriate long-term solution to the space issues at our secondary schools.

The letter reflects the “team work” that was not exactly in play during the process to try and make the dog track property work after voters approved the purchase of the dog track for school purposes a long time ago. We don’t blame the city for trying to preserve the land as a taxable entity, but we suspect the district has to be disappointed with the outcome.

But, the letter signifies that the district will take the high road and not point fingers, realizing that mutual support may be needed in the future.

The next step for the district is to find that “perfect” piece of property in, or around, the city. That could be a huge challenge. When you drive around the Hudson area, there aren’t too many 65-acre pieces of open land, especially with sewer, water and other pieces of infrastructure – there may not be any! We hope the district has an eye on something, but we suspect that finding property is going to be a challenge.

There are citizens who suggest adding on, or remodeling the current facility which sits on a 40-plus acre site. No doubt, remodeling can be done, and probably at a lower cost. Looking long term, however, if you believe in the 65-acre minimum (some don’t), remodeling will never provide all the answers.

New Richmond and River Falls built new high schools in recent years. River Falls’ new facility sits on 80 acres; New Richmond purchased 110 acres and a small portion of that went to a new elementary school – most of it for the high school. Both New Richmond and River Falls have schools with smaller capacities than what would be needed in Hudson. We’re not sure 65 acres is necessarily the magic number – that’s an “education” recommendation; Right or wrong, however, the number seems reasonable when compared to what’s going on in other districts.

It has been common knowledge that the district would like to have a school referendum this fall. A referendum this fall will likely include both land and buildings. The bottom line is that the district will have to move quickly if they hope to stick to that timetable. With the current board and administration, the district has already made it known that it will not seriously consider remodeling/expanding the current high school.

What it means is that a process that has been grinding along for several years, will have to be fast-tracked, if there is any hope of bringing a proposal to voters this fall.

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