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Investing In Our School and In Our Community
Investing In Our Schools and Our Community
When the current Menomonie High School opened its doors in 1961, it was a shiny new building on the hill. It had a courtyard, state-of-the-art science laboratories, a central cafeteria, beautifully tiled restrooms, and a new gym. The only thing missing were the new bleachers. The “new fangled” wall of bleachers was installed after the building was opened.
The building is now fifty years old. The citizens of Menomonie did well to build a building that would live well into the future. The building was originally built as a high school. However, there were several failed attempts in the early seventies to pass a bond referendum to add a junior high.
Eventually, in 1975, a junior high addition was added to MHS using state trust fund dollars. Thus, the explanation for why the current building has one large gym and a second smaller gym, one large cafeteria and another smaller cafeteria, and many of the current classrooms are not being used for their original purpose.
There have been two additional major renovation projects in the building. The most recent was finished in 1999. The HVAC was upgraded, new windows installed, floor coverings redone, and the building was given a general facelift. The project brought many improvements, but the budget and size of the project was limited. In fact, the now nostalgic original pink and blue restroom tile remains in tact.
We are now in a position as a community to ask ourselves what we want our schools to look like fifty years from now. The board of education had been considering the needs of our buildings over the next five to ten years. They quickly came to the conclusion that we needed to look at the “quick fixes” and repairs in relationship to the long-range needs of our facilities.
At one point during our Fourth of July family picnic, the conversation turned to the recent news stories about our school district facilities study. I was more than happy to discuss the process, steps, and work thus far. I am certain I used the word “preliminary” many times. It is important to remember we are in the beginning phases of considering how to meet our long-range needs.
Facilities were also a major theme of the recently held “Great Conversation” strategic planning process in the community. Our community members repeatedly told us they want to see a vision and plan for our buildings. The buildings are a great source of community pride and the community wants them to be well maintained and functional.
When the 1961 high school building opened its doors, they probably did not foresee the technology infrastructure that would be needed fifty years from now. They could not have anticipated the changes required by future legislation or career and college readiness. What will our schools need to be in 2062?
The initial work of the facilities study will now be turned over to a community task team for further review and discussion over the next few months. Their job will be to identify and review information needed to make an informed decision, evaluate the summary of district needs, review and evaluate various options, and make recommendations to the board of education.
The facilities study concluded that we have adequate space, but that many of the spaces have been repurposed. The current library was once a cafeteria. The current upper level computer labs were once the high school library. The study also revealed the changes needed to address current code, accessibility, infrastructure performance, safety, and efficiency. The latter could be defined as needs.
All of the findings for all of the buildings need additional review and discussion prior to final recommendations and concept refinement. Once all of that is complete, we can discuss what the various options might cost and how to meet our objectives.
An investment in our schools is an investment in the future of the community. When high profile positions are being hired in Menomonie, candidates often want to drive by our schools and call to inquire about programming. When families are relocating they do exactly the same thing.
When our local economic development corporation is trying to draw new business and industry, their clients are drawn to communities that have a commitment to their schools. Everyone wants their children and grandchildren to have a great education in a great school. It is essential that this project be done right and for the right reasons.
Menomonie has been an educational community for hundreds of years. The community has remained progressive and supportive of their schools. We must acknowledge the economy is still struggling, but without great schools, that problem deepens rather than improves.
The vision for the future of our facilities is a vision for the future of our community. General Eric Shinseki, Chief of Staff for the U.S.Army, once said, “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.”
The next step will gather further feedback from the community. If you would be interested in submitting your name for a community task force who will study the options and make recommendations, please contact Patty Woodford at 715-232-1642. We are committed to a transparent and collaborative community process. Let’s get this done right!
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