ELK MOUND — The Elk Mound school district has formally kicked off a set of construction projects, the start of a two-year push to complete building projects funded by a successful $15.7 million referendum last spring.
“This approval came essentially when the pandemic began, and we’re just excited and thankful for our students and our community,” said Eric Wright, Elk Mound schools superintendent.
Elk Mound students and administrators held an official groundbreaking event on April 6, kicking off the summer construction season.
The school district’s referendum passed in April 2020, 1,008 votes to 558 votes. It will drive an additional $34 per year in property taxes on a home valued at $100,000, Wright said. The district has a 20-year bond for the referendum dollars. (The district’s original projection was an additional $78 each year in property taxes on a $100,000 home).
Some of the referendum projects include:
- Adding secure entrances at the elementary and middle school.
- Updating and expanding science, engineering, math and tech education classrooms and upgrading the athletic field at the high school.
- Replacing roofs and boilers at all three school buildings.
- Upgrading aging equipment in the pool at the high school.
- Adding a new gym and classrooms at the middle school.
- Expanding the weight room.
Wright said he expects construction for all the projects to take two years, wrapping up by the start of the 2022-23 school year.
This spring, the district has broken ground for the new middle school gym and parking lot, and for a new high school band and weight room, Wright said.
It’s aiming to have a new, rubberized track installed by the end of summer, depending on the weather and availability of construction materials. The schools’ current track is asphalt, Wright added.
After classes end in late May, the district will replace all boilers in the three schools.
Also this summer, the district is scheduled to add secure entrances to the elementary and middle schools; the high school already has a secure entrance.
“Right now we have the buzzer system, but at our elementary and middle schools, once you’re buzzed in you can go right through the building,” Wright said. “Now individuals will have to go through the office first.”
The district has already replaced an air handling unit in its pool, preparing for summer swimming lessons.
In summer 2022 the district is anticipating remodeling the high school’s tech education area, remodeling the locker rooms and creating a girls’ team room, “which will hopefully allow us to utilize the pool more for open gyms and swims,” Wright said.
Also on the docket for next summer is a remodel of the middle and high school libraries, “updating those areas to a more collaborative space, creating locations where small group work can occur,” Wright said.
The district’s last building referendum was in 2009. It included facility additions and renovations.
Despite the burgeoning pandemic, 2020 was a banner year for successful school referendums in Wisconsin, according to an analysis from the nonpartisan Wisconsin Policy Forum.
In April 2020, voters approved the vast majority of school referendums — 52 out of 60 — that were on the ballot, totaling more than $1.7 billion in property tax increases for school districts.
School referendums give districts the ability to exceed state caps on revenue they can collect through their combined local property taxes and general state aid dollars, according to the WPF report. Since 2016, voters in almost two-thirds of all Wisconsin school districts have approved referendums.
The Elk Mound school district has about 1,200 students.
Leader-Telegram reporter Chris Vetter contributed to this report.