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Hudson Schools: Secondary space options narrowed

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opinion River Falls,Wisconsin 54022 http://www.hudsonstarobserver.com/sites/all/themes/hudsonstarobserver_theme/images/social_default_image.png
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Hudson Schools: Secondary space options narrowed
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

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Since October 2012, the Board of Education has been studying options that would meet the long-term Secondary Space for Learning needs at both the high school and middle school. The board started its study with consideration of over 15 options. At the July 2013 regular Board of Education meeting, the board reduced the options for further study to three. As a result, the board has asked administration to fully research these remaining three options to determine how each supports future secondary space needs; the district’s strategic vision HSD 2025; Middle School House Concept; High School Learning for the Future implementation; and curriculum and programming.

The options the Board has advanced for further study are:

—Construct a three-year high school. Current high school becomes a grades 8-9 school; current middle school becomes a grades 6-7 school.

—Construct a three-year high school. Current high school becomes a grades 6-9 school; current middle school becomes a grades 6-9 school.

—Construct a grades 6-9 school. Current high school becomes a grades 10-12 school; current middle school becomes a grades 6-9 school.

In discussions regarding these three options, board members wanted any new construction to be designed for expansion to accommodate future growth, if needed. Board members are committed to a long-term solution that will meet student enrollment needs for a minimum of 10 years.

The two options removed by the board included one of the Facility Task Forces preferred options; construct a four-year high school, convert the current high school into a grades 7-8 school, and convert the current middle school into a grades 5-6 school. This option was originally considered because it met the district’s student enrollment needs for grades K-12. It was considered by the Task Force before River Crest Elementary was built. Since River Crest addressed elementary space needs, board members were concerned about the community’s acceptance of changing the elementary grade configuration as well as creating excess space at the elementary level. The board has always been committed to fully utilizing all of the district’s school buildings.

The other option removed by the board was the grades 6-12 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) school for 700 students with continued use of the current middle school for grades 6-8 and the current high school for grades 9-12. One of the board’s criteria for planning included addressing space requirements for grades 6-12 for 10 years at a minimum. This option would potentially require additional construction as early as 2017. Much of the conversation also centered on equity of programming and allowing access by all students to important STEM courses. The High School Learning for the Future implementation plan already includes a STEM-focused Career Partnership Academy with a high tech focus designed for access by all students.

Questions were raised about duplication of programming and the costs associated with such duplication. Another question was whether the 6-12 STEM school students would have access to a full range of courses like band, choir, orchestra, Advanced Placement courses, and world languages since the school was separate from the 9-12 High School. Possible options such as transporting students to the other schools for additional programming and duplication of programming and staffing at the 6-12 STEM school would add additional operation cost. With the number of questions raised regarding this option and a strong desire to provide STEM learning for all students, the board chose to remove this option.

A next step for the three options the board has advanced includes an assessment of current buildings to see how well they meet the needs of projected student enrollment for each option. Questions will need to be answered about the feasibility of using existing buildings to meet 21st Century educational curriculum and programming required of HSD 2025 and High School Learning for the Future compared to new construction. Finally, a cost estimate will be developed for each option which includes the cost of new construction and existing building redesign or improvements. With this information, the board will be prepared to engage the community in multiple conversations and use a variety of feedback tools to assess the community’s desire to support one of the options. Community members can expect to participate in open conversations, listen to informational presentations, respond to surveys and send comments to the Board and administration via connections@hudson.k12.wi.us.

At the same time the board is studying these building options, it has begun the process to meet with community partners to determine the feasibility of bringing public water and sewer to the district owned UU property located in the town of Hudson. An initial meeting between the school district, city of Hudson, town of Hudson, and St. Croix County has started the process for identifying the feasibility of extending city of Hudson water and sewer to UU. Board members also approved moving forward with soil borings to identify the capacity of the UU site to support a secondary school if a private waste water treatment facility and well were the only options. Good news resulted from a DNR approved wetlands delineation study of the UU site. Areas that had previously been identified as potential wetlands on Wisconsin Wetland Inventory Maps were determined to not be wetlands as a result of this more comprehensive study. This provides the possibility of more useable space on the UU site, but further study of environmental corridors, a concern raised by St. Croix County, will need to be taken into consideration before a site plan for a school can be developed.

The board wants the community to know that everyone’s voice is important in this process to decide on a long-term secondary space for learning solution. Multiple opportunities will be available to give feedback. You can start now by sending the board your comments by emailing connections@hudson.k12.wi.us. The board plans to determine with feedback from the community, what the final building solution, the cost estimate, and financial impact will be before the next referendum. The board is committed to providing this information when it becomes available. More information is available at www.hudson.k12.wi.us.

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Pat Hunter
(715) 425-1561
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