Algoma referendum seeks to improve elementary school/theater facilities
With a growing enrollment and an increased role in the community, the Algoma School District is moving forward with a $4.86 million referendum on the April 5 ballot asking voters to approve funds to upgrade its elementary school and other school facilities.
“We want to improve the experience for our students,” says Superintendent. Nick Cochart.
The referendum would allow the school district to authorize bonds to pay for renovations, improvements and additions to the elementary school, rest room renovations at the high school, and parking lot improvements at all buildings, as well as equipment needed for the projects.
The school district’s enrollment has increased by more than 150 students in the last five years, and the Algoma School District is one of only about a dozen school districts in the state that is reporting increased enrollment, Cochart said. The current enrollment is 757, he said.
“Increasing enrollment is the driving force behind all of our improvements,” Cochart said.
The referendum will provide new elementary and preschool classrooms, a new updated library and an expanded music and band room at the elementary school. It will also upgrade the theater support facilities that are used by all grade levels and provide new entrances and increased security at the elementary school.
He said the school district has not placed a referendum on the ballot to improve its schools’ facilities since 1997. The bonds issued in 1997 end this year, which allows the school district to reissue debt without impacting the local taxpayer, according to Cochart.
He said that if the Algoma school referendum passes, school district taxpayers will still see a decrease in school district taxes of $0.20 per $1,000 of property value. A typical $100,000 home can expect to save $20, Cochart said..
In 2015, the school district opened its new Wellness Center, which was paid for through private donations and the school district’s general fund.
“In the era of referendums, we have been very good stewards of our buildings,” he said.
Algoma’s elementary school, however, has aging mechanical systems that have not been upgraded since the 1930s when the building was constructed, Cochart said. The referendum will allow the school district to replace the aging steam boiler and heating system with a hot water system, that will result in large savings in terms of efficiency and cost, Cochart said.
The referendum funds would also support a 16,000-square-foot addition to the elementary school that will include a 4,000-square-foot library and several classroom/childcare areas that will allow the early childhood through sixth grade school to add additional programming.
The school district’s strong band and music programs will be enhanced with an expansion of the existing 40-by-40 foot band room, which is currently used by more than 100 students on a school day, according to Jennifer Massey, band director. The existing room has old peeling tiles, missing hardware and is too small to accommodate the growth in band programs, Massey said.
In addition, the backstage of the school’s theater, which was built in the 1930s and has significant historical features, will be expanded to provide more space for props and dressing rooms.
The theater is also increasingly used for community performances under the name of the Algoma Performing Arts Center. A separate canopied entrance to the theater will be created on Fremont Street to allow for community access and secure it from the elementary school during school hours.
If the referendum fails, the school district would be required to reduce staff and cut extracurricular activities and building maintenance, according to Cochart. Because the school district’s debt payment would fall off, the school district would lose state funding associated with its current budget, increasing the district’s cost to educate its 750-plus students, Cochart said.
If the referendum is approved, the school district will be prepared to start construction immediately with the goal of having the project completed by September, Cochart said.
“It will be a tremendous amount of work to get it completed over the summer, but it will be something that the community can be proud of,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press Gazette: Algoma referendum seeks to improve elementary school/theater facilities