November 14, 2023 – West Bend, WI – The West Bend School Board held a preliminary discussion on a Facilities Study during its meeting Monday night as the district explores a possible referendum in 2024 or 2025.
The district budgeted $85,000 for the study which will be conducted by two firms; the goal is similar to a 2019 voluntary study of all facilities conducted by a group dubbed the West Bend School District Private Task Force (WBSDPTF).
Below is a copy of the long-range facilities planning, process, assessment, scoring and timetable proposal for the referendum. No financial figures were presented but a list of key dates was offered.2023.11.13 WBSB Referendum 1
The topic of ‘building capacity’ drew several questions.
Board president Chris Zwygart asked, “How do you address spaces like a shop space? We only have 3 periods of shop but it’s not like you can use shop for a math class so how is that accounted for in this process?”
Bob Morris with EUA said, “We use different standards to evaluate how much space you need for a shop class, so that plays into it. But that’s why we use the graphics so you can see areas that might be under-utilized and whether there’s potential there or not. In ever district every space is not used 100% of the time; for high schools the target is 80% use of spaces.”
Board member John Donaldson asked EUA, “How do you take into account declining enrollment and moving forward down the road five years we’re going to have 15 to 20 percent fewer students and need less space.”
Morris said he jumped ahead a few months in their process. “We’re trying to give you an accurate picture of how your buildings are used. As you see declining enrollment… what that likely means is you have more capacity than you have space. Our job is to tell that story about how much extra capacity do you have. … once that is determined we can get into the questions about what you want to do about it.”
In the projections from the 2019 facilities study it showed elementary enrollment in the WBSD in 2022/23 at 1989.
K-4 actually appears to be 1792 students which is 197 students less than the previous estimate.
McLane enrollment was 542 in 2019 and now it is 380, down 162 students.
A graph from January 2023 from the WBSD is below.
The numbers above will be updated when more current data is available.
Below is a story on the history of the potential referendum in the WBSD
June 18, 2023 – West Bend, Wi – The West Bend School District is gearing up for a potential referendum. While the timing hasn’t been confirmed, it appears the district is targeting a November 2024 ballot.
UPDATE – As of June 14, 2023 it was announced Dave Ross is retiring as head of facilities in the WBSD.
During its last meeting the board voted unanimously to select a construction firm for the referendum, which at this point, will focus on a review of all facilities. According to the district there is no specific concept at this point.
For neighbors who have been in the community a while, this approach to review all facilities matches a study from 2019 that was done voluntarily by the West Bend School District
Private Task Force (WBSDPTF).
That privately funded task force was led by former West Bend Mayor Kraig Sadownikow and made up of local business owners and those experienced in design, construction, facilities management and open communication.
The conclusion of the 2019 volunteer private task force study showed the WBSD was headed for a steep decline in enrollment and there was a strong suggestion the district consolidate its resources.
Below are some quotes from 2019 and the volunteer private task force:
“As a district there are multiple campuses at wide geographical locations. That means maintaining and monitoring is difficult. This makes operating the district more expensive.”
“Communication is critical with residents; currently it isn’t transparent. Erring on side of too much communication is better than too little.”
“Money is the solution to the problem – more money may not be.”
“Finally – the capital maintenance budget is inadequate. It’s underfunded. Can’t consider a new investment in new facilities without considering how to maintain what we currently have. Building new while avoiding maintenance is a losing situation.”2019 WBSD task force
During the June 2023 WBSD board meeting:
- Four firms were solicited for a Request for Proposal and declined because of other business activities.
- Bray & Associates did respond to the RFP but were not selected. Bray oversaw the $74 million Jackson School referendum in April 2019, which did not pass.
- Eppstein Uhen Architects Inc. was unanimously selected. Board gave authorization to pursue contract to be approved at next board meeting. Cost is estimated at $75,000 according to district facilities manager Dave Ross.
WBSD facilities manager Dave Ross said the money for the facilities review would come out of a 310 fund for personal services. He said the fund contained $85,000 and the contract for Eppstein Uhen Architects Inc. was $75,000.
“Their bid was higher than the other firm,” said Ross. “This will include a review of everything we’ve got, just to validate what we’ve got and then to develop a long-term facilities plan.”
Ross said the last time he put together a facilities plan was when he arrived in the district. “It’s gotten dated and right now we have more of a tactical spending plan than a complete facilities plan. So, it’s got to be eight to 10 years.”
Reminded about the 2019 private taskforce report made during a presentation before the school board, Ross acknowledged he remembered the effort.
At the time, board member Paul Fisher was quoted saying, “The hard work starts tomorrow.”
Ross was questioned, after 2019, what did the district do with that plan?
“We took the plan, we looked at it, we’ve implemented a number of things that were in it. So, we’ve been chipping away at it,” said Ross.
Asked about the top two or three “things” implemented Ross said, “I’d have to go back and look at it. But, you know, there was a lot of good things in that plan that made sense to me. So, we took it and we started to have a look at it.”
Ross said, right sizing the district is one initiative.
“That’s probably the biggest thing that we’re looking at. You know, as well as anybody that we do have a declining population here and we’ve got to make sure our facilities match the population in the right place at the right time.”
In 2019 the volunteer task force clearly noted a strong decline in enrollment ahead. Ross was asked if they acted at the time, four years ago.
“We’ve been looking at that and there’s going to be a lot more work done on that in the not-too-distant future because again, it doesn’t appear it’s going to turn around anytime in the near future,” he said.
Questioned again about some of the items implemented, Ross said again, it is about right sizing the district.
“Looking at things, evaluating what we have, and validating some of the stuff that they had. Yeah, we’ve looked at all of that. We’ve looked at some outsourcing opportunities. We’re outsourcing some of the custodial function,” he said.
Questioned whether the 2019 report is now dated, and whether spending $75,000 on another similar study is necessary.
“It is dated,” he said. “While they put time into it, I certainly don’t want to discredit what they did because I helped them a lot with it, and they did a nice job. But that was done outside. So, while it was helpful, it still needs to be looked at internally.”
Questioned whether the task force was not allowed to look internally, Ross said, “I took them everywhere and I gave him every piece of information that I had.”
Questioned then how an outside firm would see something different Ross said, “That’s what we’re gonna find out.”
Questioned whether low enrollment would mean a building would close or the referendum would finally be triggered to combine the high schools, Ross said he “couldn’t speak to that at this stage of the game.”
Interesting to note – the projections from a facilities study in 2019 showed elementary enrollment in 2022/23 at 1989. K-4 actually appears to be 1792 which is 197 students less than the previous estimate.
McLane enrollment was 498 in 2019 and now it is 380, down 118 students.
Ross suggested a third Friday count would have more current enrollment data.