Advisory task force seeks input on school district upgrades, possible referendum

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By Ted Pennekamp


The Prairie du Chien School District is in the midst of a planning effort to assess facility and space needs required to deliver current and future curriculum at all grade levels.  A condition assessment report has been completed to evaluate code, maintenance and American Disability Act (ADA) issues that may need to be addressed over the net 10 years so that capital budgets can be planned for in advance.  

A public Advisory Task Force consisting of a cross section of community members has been formed to identify possible needs and options regarding possible facility upgrades for the school district. Possible upgrades include a new art room, upgrades to the high school cafeteria and a new auditorium. Other possibilities will also be discussed. 

“The Board of Education has determined that the residents of the community are the true owners of the school district and they want to hear from the community what the community’s vision is for the future of the district,” said School Board President Christine Panka.  

FEH Associates Inc. of Dubuque has been selected by the school board to lead the study and community process to gather information on possible referendum ideas for both operating and building needs. FEH has developed and refined a Charrette process which is a public workshop to work directly with stakeholders on idea development.

FEH is a firm that is more than 100 years old and specializes in working with school districts. They have worked with more than 500 school districts across a nine-state area in the last 30 years.

Panka said that the Advisory Task Force will not only work to identify needs and possible options for the district, it will also develop criteria to evaluate potential solutions, the weighting of the criteria, participating in the planning workshops and ultimately, recommending the preferred solutions to meet the needs of the school district and the community’s vision.

Two meetings have taken place to date. During the first meeting, held on Sept. 15, FEH educated the community group about the facilities needs as well as funding issues for the school district. The second meeting on Oct. 1 had the community members prioritizing the needs of the school district.

Upcoming meetings with the Advisory Task Force, FEH and the general public are scheduled for Oct. 7-8 from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the Bluff View Cafeteria, and on Oct. 13 from 6 p.m.-7:30 p.m. in the high school theater. Interested persons can also get more information and give their ideas and opinions by logging onto 

The Oct. 7-8 meetings are what FEH refers to as a Charrette for the community. Citizens can drop-in throughout the day to share their needs, wants and concerns for the school district while the consulting group creates renderings of potential school spaces in real time.

“Citizens taking time out of their busy schedules to come together to create solutions that reflect the community’s values for the benefit of school children really demonstrates the heart of our regional values,” said Panka.

Additional public meetings at which possible facilities upgrades, the revenue limit and possible referendum questions are expected to be discussed include the regular school board meetings on Oct. 12, Nov. 9 and Dec. 3. Action on a possible April referendum is expected to be taken by the school board during the Dec. 3 meeting.

The Prairie du Chien School District has been discussing and exploring facility options for years. Prairie du Chien is only one of a few schools that has not gone to referendum to ask for the ability to increase the allowed revenue limit per student. Because of this, the school has been locked in at a low revenue limit level that is far below the average school. The school has made many cuts over the past years to stay within the revenue as allowed, but district officials have said there are no more places to cut.

The current Advisory Task Force public meetings are aiming at a possible referendum in April of 2016. Potential referendum questions may include exceeding the revenue limit for additional operating dollars and facility updates.

District Administrator Drew Johnson has said that the school district is a high performing school district that exceeds expectations, and to hold that level of performance, district leaders believe a revenue limit that is closer to average is needed.

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