Turner sets voter-info sessions on referendum

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BELOIT - Three informational meetings on the School District of Beloit Turner's facilities referendum are being held for voters before they go to the polls on April 3.

The first meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Monday at Townview Elementary School in the gymnasium. There will be two more community informational meetings at 10 a.m. March 3 in the Turner High School/Middle School library and 6:30 p.m. March 20 at Powers Elementary.

Board of Education President John Turner said members of the school board and staff will be in attendance to answer questions. A presentation will be led by Bray Architects and members of the district's Facilities Study Committee. The Milwaukee-based firm was tasked with developing a lengthy study of the district's buildings, and the Facilities Study Committee was formed more than a year ago to assess the district's buildings. The committee ultimately recommended a referendum to update the district's facilities.

"Speaking from the board's perspective, we just want to have the residents of the school district ask any questions they may have about the referendum," Turner said.

If the referendum passes, the $26.8 million would be used to build a new second-fifth grade elementary school that would cost approximately $24.2 million. The remaining $2.6 million would be used to improve the high school's science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) program. The referendum also would close Townview Elementary School, which the committee found to be the district's most ineffective building, and move second graders from Powers Elementary to the new school.

The estimated annual tax impact on a property with a market value of $100,000 would be $99; the annual impact on a $150,000 property would be $148.50; the annual impact on a $200,000 property would be $198.

A community-wide survey conducted earlier last year found that a majority of residents would support a $25 million referendum. Based on those results, the committee recommended the $26.8 million referendum plan to the school board.

Turner encourages voters to come with their questions and to tour the district's three buildings. He expects voters will have questions about how the committee and school board reached the decision and why the district decided to not address certain issues in this referendum.

"This referendum is the first step," Turner said. "We have a vision plan for the next 25 years or more as to what we would like to see for the district."

Some of the other improvements the district would like to make down the line are adding more secure entrances at each of the buildings and addressing the shared gym/cafeteria space at Powers Elementary, Turner said. He believes moving second graders to the new building will create more educational flexibility at Powers.

Middle/high school renovations would include renovating the middle school shop and classroom as well as the fabrication, physics and engineering labs. Other renovations would include renovating a hands-on learning space adjacent to all major STEM areas. New construction would include adding a high school shop classroom and metals and woods shops with storage. If the referendum passes, the district is considering a capital improvement plan that would include additional art classrooms and renovating the existing art rooms into spaces for physical education and storage.

Superintendent Dennis McCarthy estimates the high/middle school addition would be completed for the 2019-20 school year, and a new second-fifth grade elementary building would open for the 2020-21 school year.

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