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Prescott Referendum Buzz: Why not just address space at Malone?

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Prescott Referendum Buzz: Why not just address space at Malone?
Ellsworth Wisconsin 126 S. Chestnut St. 54011

By Roger Hulne

Prescott School Superintendent

PRESCOTT--“If the biggest space issues are at Malone, why not just address those?”

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I hear this question a lot. Ten years ago, there were 450 students at Malone, now there are nearly 600. Enrollment growth at the middle school and high school has been less drastic, but is still steadily growing and nearing capacity at both buildings.

Historically, there have been about 75 students per grade. Now some grades at Malone have over 100 students. These students are likely to continue in Prescott and be joined by students from St. Joe's in middle school, adding about 12-15 new students per grade. The middle school is expected to be over capacity in two years, based on the sizes of those upcoming classes.

But it’s not just about enrollment increases. The use of existing education space has changed drastically over the last couple of decades.

--Special Education programming requirements demand much more dedicated space compared to 20 years ago.

--Not too long ago, there were no computers in schools. Now we have classes over the Internet, Interactive Television, a TV recording class and computer labs.

--The high school band and choir once shared a room, but with about 120 band members, the choir needed separate space. The high school stage area was converted to a choir room. 

--Our students are expected to do more in science, yet we have only one science lab in the high school. By comparison, the middle school has three science labs as a result of the 2004 remodel.

--Prescott Community Recreation (PCR) and Community Education have grown tremendously, requiring more use of our gyms, schools and outdoor spaces. Those programs are important and serve a wide range of our community.

Schools are being asked to do more and more to prepare students for a changing world.

Building a new high school relieves space issues at Malone and so much more. It upgrades space for our middle school and high school students, provides adequate facilities for community education and recreation programs, and requires very minimal effort to realign classes in existing space the community has already invested in. It is truly a long-term solution with a big impact for the investment.

”What happens if the referendum fails?”

This is another common question and one the district is seriously weighing. The space constraints are not going away--they are only increasing. Some options may include:

--Larger class sizes/more students in each classroom;

--Renting additional portable classrooms to accommodate students;

--Continue renting off-site space for special programming;

--Adjusting the school calendar for options such as year-round school.

Growing student enrollment indicates a strong and vital community. Responding to growth will cost money--whether it is in the form of a building loan for a long-term solution or in the form of operating costs, including rent, for a short-term reaction. A school referendum is one of the rare opportunities taxpayers have to choose how their tax dollars are invested.

For more information on referendum planning--including facilities assessments, cost, tax impact and more--visit the district website at www.prescott.k12.wi.us.

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