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Moving forward with school plans

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PRESCOTT--After extensive review of past recommendations, current facilities and long term needs, a facility committee recommended a new high school building and reallocation of grades throughout the Prescott School District.

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In April, the school district held two public listening sessions to communicate information about the recommendation, and to hear input and questions from residents.

Over 60 people attended one of the two sessions. For the most part, the attendees acknowledged there is a space issue in Prescott. There was a great deal of support for the teaching excellence and outcomes in the district. Attendees wanted assurance any decision is in the best interest of the students and supports the great outcomes in place.

As expected, a major concern was with cost and tax impact. Based on construction estimates, a basic high school building sized to accommodate the projected growth, with core areas to allow future growth, is estimated to be in the lower $30 million range.

Currently, interest rates are at an all-time low. Based on rates of 2.9 percent, compared to a former low rate of five percent, we would save about $13 million in interest costs on the estimated borrowing needs.

The estimated construction cost equates to about $240 annually for $100,000 of property value, or approximately $20 per month. The district has good outdoor varsity athletic areas and plans to continue using them. The operating costs for a fourth building would be covered through state aid increases as enrollment grows, as well as the current tax levy override.

Again, those are estimates only. A building has not been designed and any final costs would depend on design elements.

The rationale for building a new high school is it allows the district to address the growing enrollment throughout all buildings, long-term. It also keeps students in the same grade levels together. The community would be providing updated educational facilities for the students closest to pursuing careers and college. A building solution also provides space options the whole community can enjoy.

Another issue clear at the listening session is the importance of trust. The school board is working hard to make sure the issues are clearly presented and a dialogue is developed so this is, indeed, a community a solution. All of the planning documents from this recommendation, as well as prior recommendation, are available on the website at www.prescott.k12.wi.us.

The next step is to measure community support through a representative survey. The purpose of the survey is to measure tax tolerance for a solution through a survey of 300 residents accurately representing the district voting population. This survey is completed by an objective professional data collection agency. The board will hear the results of the survey at a Tuesday, June 11, public meeting.

Many people also questioned if a high school was the best solution. To answer those questions and present a more clear rationale for that recommendation, the district will hold two additional Informational Sessions next Monday and Thursday, May 30. We encourage everyone to attend.

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