Milton School District concentrating on three facility options

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Jake Magee
July 29, 2015

MILTON—The Milton School District is focusing on three options to address its facility needs, including a new option that would build a new high school in phases.

The district and Plunkett Raysich Architects, the firm the district hired to conduct a facility needs study, originally presented four options to district residents. They've since been narrowed to three:

— Address maintenance needs at current buildings.

— Build a new high school.

— Build a new high school in phases.

Based on feedback from a public engagement meeting, the district will no longer concentrate on the options of renovating and expanding the existing middle and high schools or building a new middle school, though they're not officially off the table, Superintendent Tim Schigur said.

“As we move forward, it's clear … they (the community) gave us direction to some options that were more palatable,” he said, referring to the three remaining options.

Addressing maintenance needs and building a new high school cover each end of the cost spectrum, said Nicholas Kent, Plunkett Raysich partner. Looking for middle ground, the firm offered an additional option to build a new high school in two phases, with the option to stop after the first phase.

Phase one of the new option would demolish the high school's technical education wing, fill in the high school pool, turn the space into an auxiliary gym and build a new addition on the west side of the high school for a field house, eight-lane pool and new technical education wing.

Phase two, should it go that far, would build a new high school attached to the west side of the new field house and convert the old high school into a middle school. The athletic center and tech ed wing would become a shared facility between both schools and the public.

“Let's look at something that doesn't build a brand new high school right out of the chute but allows the district to set up for one somewhere down the line,” Kent said about the new option.

The new option could cost more money in the long run but, should it stop after phase one, it might be cheaper than building a new high school all at once, Schigur said. If it went through phase two, it would be a project spread out over several years, he said.

“I think this is a nice option because it could be the option,” Schigur said.

School board and strategic planning committee members expressed approval of the new option, noting the high school pool needs attention. The current tech ed department is in rough shape, Kent said.

Building a new tech ed wing would bring technology into the foreground and possibly interest more students in science, technology, engineering and math, he said.

“It's a great opportunity to build something that showcases new curriculum,” Kent said.

Should the district build a new high school, the district would need to decide whether to keep grade configurations as they are or split kindergarten through fifth grade elementary levels, Schigur said.

Keeping grades as they are now would require more renovations and cost more, but splitting grades between different schools might not be ideal for learning, committee Chairwoman Betsy Lubke said. The district will host an administrative meeting in the next couple weeks to consider which configuration of grades would be best should the district build a new high school.

The district expects six responses to the request for proposals it issued last week for a construction management firm. The committee will interview three or four finalists and decide which to hire at the Monday, Aug. 10, school board meeting.

The firm will help the district nail down cost estimates for each option.

The district is planning another community engagement session tentatively scheduled for after Labor Day to gauge the public's thoughts. At the meeting, district officials will present cost estimates and discuss the evolution of modern learning, which is what's largely driving the facility needs assessment.

“If we don't talk about the educational side as the driver, we're not really doing things the way we want to do them,” Schigur said.

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