Since 2020, the planning process has included assessing our facilities, working with staff, and engaging with the community. After the unsuccessful referendums in 2022 and 2023, the Administration and School Board have worked to re-engage community members with our facility planning process in various ways, including establishing a Community Advisory Committee.
To date, the District has:
-Completed an independent assessment of our facilities that included a 10-year master plan
-Surveyed staff on day-to-day facility challenges
-Engaged a Community Advisory Committee for input on potential solutions
-Sought feedback from our communities to determine what solutions would be supported
-Taking the Community Advisory Committee’s recommendation, the school board took action to seek voter approval for funding to address all facility needs with this two-question referendum.
Addressing all facility needs at once provides a comprehensive, lower-cost solution to facility problems rather than piecemeal fixes that are more expensive. The approach will lead to more efficient and effective implementation of improvements and reduce the time and resources needed for multiple referendums.
Waterford Union High School has needs that must be addressed now. Like most districts in Wisconsin, our current maintenance budget cannot accommodate the costly replacement of outdated infrastructure, including mechanical and electrical systems, plumbing, and roofing. The district compiled life expectancies for many of its building systems and learned that several are overdue for replacement. Addressing the facility’s needs now prevents unexpected, costly repairs and removes the continued deterioration and interruptions to students and staff during the school day.
A state-imposed revenue limit places a ceiling on school funds available, and it is common for Wisconsin schools to go to referendum to address improvement projects – since this state-imposed revenue limit was put in place, 356 of the 421 unique school districts have needed to use the referendum option at least once.
The WUHS long-range facility plan is a comprehensive list of facility improvements needed to extend the life of our facilities and update them to conform with modern educational needs. The list below captures the significant needs to be addressed if the February 20, 2024, referendum is approved.
Question One Would Address:
-Expand Career & Technical Education spaces (general construction, robotics, welding, and automotive) to provide opportunities for all students to succeed, whether in careers or college.
-Repair and/or replace failing mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems to reduce operating costs and increase efficiency.
-Improve fire safety, entrance security, and ADA accessibility.
-Rebuild the Mapleview section of the building.
-Improve special education spaces.
-Renovate the receiving area to alleviate open entrances during school hours.
-Consolidate art suite with 2D, 3D and graphics art in adjacent area.
-Relocate the music department (Band & Choir) adjacent to the theater/auditorium to create a theatrical art connection.
-Add multi-use spaces to meet the increased need for collaborative areas (flex space, tutor areas, small & large group instruction).
-Improve wayfinding to provide more direct access throughout the building, and include a reconfiguring of the kitchen and commons.
-Create modern classrooms and labs, integrating the technology needed for 21st-century learning
-Create space to bring alternative education into our building and reduce program costs.
-Right-size the main gym for physical education and community events (Veterans Day ceremony, youth nights, graduation).
Question Two Would Address:
-Rebuild soccer and softball fields and replace portable toilets with restrooms.
This two-question referendum not only promises a student-focused, future-oriented educational environment but also showcases the District’s commitment to fiscally responsible solutions. Addressing both infrastructure and educational needs at the same time increases operating efficiencies, reduces borrowing costs, and eliminates the costs of repeating referendums.
If both questions are approved, the conservative approach to a per-month cost (not to exceed) is $25 per month on a $300,000 home, $33 per month on a $400,000 home, and $41 per month on a $500K home.
Shall the Waterford Union High School District, Racine and Waukesha Counties, Wisconsin be authorized to issue pursuant to Chapter 67 of the Wisconsin Statutes, general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed $77,800,000 for the public purpose of paying the cost of a school building and facility improvement project consisting of: the construction of additions for career and technical education, large group instruction, event space and a replacement gymnasium; renovations, infrastructure updates and capital maintenance improvements, including consolidation of the support services and main offices; construction of a fine arts suite and a secure entrance, along with the demolition of the current receiving area, district-owned apartment buildings and a former elementary school; parking, safety, ADA accessibility and site improvements; and the acquisition of furnishings, fixtures and equipment?
Question #2 will read as follows:
Shall the Waterford Union High School District, Racine and Waukesha Counties, Wisconsin be authorized to issue pursuant to Chapter 67 of the Wisconsin Statutes, general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed $14,160,000 for the public purpose of paying the cost of an athletic facility improvement project consisting of: upgrades to the stadium and soccer field; the construction of softball fields and a restroom facility; parking, ADA accessibility and site improvements; and the acquisition of fixtures and equipment?
Investing in our schools is an investment in our community’s future. Public education impacts everyone, whether or not they have children in school. It creates opportunities for better careers, higher incomes, and improved property values by attracting new families to the area. An approved referendum will extend the life of our school and continue providing quality teaching and learning environments that attract and retain students, staff, and families.
To replace this building with one of similar size would be approximately $150 million. This is for the school building only and does not include athletics/stadium facilities.
The District’s comprehensive planning process and community advisory committee considered several options, including building a new school, but rejected the option due to cost. The committee instead recommended a plan that would improve our existing building support educational standards, and provide a plan that would reduce the overall cost to taxpayers while meeting the needs of our students and staff.
Although we fix what we can through our operating budget, the needs are compounding and overdue. If the referendum is not approved, our facilities will continue deteriorating, wasting dollars to repair old infrastructure. Our School Board must stretch the limited dollars within the operating budget to band-aid needs. Since construction costs are increasing, delaying projects would likely increase costs by 7%.
Making these repairs/replacements in an unplanned emergency also means paying a premium and potentially causing distractions to students and staff.
Some examples of unexpected cost that have occurred since 2020:
Mold mitigation due to failure of HVAC ($300,000)
Humidity control in the gymnasium as a result of mold
If this referendum fails, we will conduct a community survey and reprioritize our needs again to propose a new referendum question for our community.
While the School Board is responsible for approving all expenditures, a facility committee would be formed to oversee the construction services. Ensuring all construction work is competitively bid, change orders are minimized, and projects are completed as planned.
Rates are still historically low, especially on 30-year bonds, and the construction cost of these improvements will only increase over time. Our Bond rating of AA also helps us receive the best possible rate.
Enrollment at WUHS is steady. As the #1 public high school in Racine County with a 96% graduation rate, this investment will bring our facilities up to date and support educational standards, which, in turn, will continue to attract more students.
Please email your questions to Luke Francois, Superintendent of WUHS, at email@example.com. The District will also communicate the details via mailers and in-person community events such as building tours and information nights.