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Janesville schools to get $71M update

Janesville School District voters passed the largest referendum in state history
Tuesday at $70.8 million.

The money will be directed toward remodeling and expanding both Janesville
high schools, Parker and Craig.

“I had a real passion to get the schools updated,” said DuWayne Severson,
vice president of the Janesville Board of Education. “There have been no
upgrades at Parker since it was built in 1968. Gym space at both schools was
not up to snuff, and some classes were being held in hallways or the basement.”

Parker High School will see its art and science programs completely remodeled
with additional classrooms and laboratories. Its special needs students will
be moved from the second floor to the first, where the old art rooms currently
are.

Craig High School will also add classrooms for science and art and will upgrade
its agricultural program facilities as well as its family and consumer education
classrooms.

“We have the No. 1 rated agriculture program in an eight-state region
but actually have rather poor facilities,” said Craig Principal Michael
Kuehne. “We have very creative and innovative teachers who have installed
a greenhouse, but they are hampered from doing cross-pollination and other studies
because of facility limitations.”

Both schools will get new cafeterias and four-station gymnasiums and modernized
heating, ventilations and air conditioning systems.

“We will save $50,000 in both schools combined by putting in new windows
and will reduce heating costs with new HVAC controls,” said Severson, who
cited Roosevelt Elementary School as saving 42 percent on heat following a similar
upgrade.

“Modernization will save the district money.”

Equal schools

The steam-heating system at Craig will be replaced with hot water pipes. Kuehne
said that job could begin as early as this April so the new system can be in
place by the winter months.

“There are some pragmatic ways in which this has to be timed, particularly
with the heating system,” he said. “Once we pull those boilers out,
the clock will be ticking.”

Each school will receive more than $30 million in renovations.

“When additions are complete, the two schools will be very comparable,
and we were very cognizant of that,” said Kuehne. “We wanted all district
students to have the same type of opportunities at each.”

The cost of the school renovations to Janesville home owners will not come
cheap. Property taxes will run an extra $103 a year per $100,000 of assessed
home value for 11 years. Payments will then decline but continue through 2029.

Severson said the revamped schools would be a boon for Janesville’s economy.

“We looked back at the touted high school Janesville built in the 1920s,
which our city leaders viewed as a beacon to draw people to the Janesville area,”
he said. “That really helped the local economy then.”

Overwhelming support

Janesville had twice gone to referendum for high school upgrades in recent
years and both times the referendums were rejected, once by 65 votes and once
by more than 3,000.

Tuesday’s referendum, however, passed by an overwhelming 13,040 to 9,973.
The 23,000-voter turnout was about double that for a usual midterm election,
according to Severson.

“I think the fact that it passed by a large margin shows residents of
Janesville are holding education as a high priority, and that’s a good
message,” Kuehne said. “It’s hard to understand what factors
convinced people this time around, but I think the community was saying that
it’s time to put the needs of the high schools at the forefront.”

Severson credited the referendum’s passing to district officials and school
proponents getting more people and community groups involved in the process
and properly showcasing the schools’ needs.
“When you boil it all down, it’s about educating people as to what
the needs are,” he said.

Sheboygan-based Bray Associates Architects Inc. assisted with both schools’
proposed designs. Kuehne said design specifications should be finalized by the
end of May, and then the district would bid out the project to contractors.

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