Our Views: In Orfordville, Parkview pride fills new school

Share on Facebook Comments Comments Print Print
Gazette editorial board
August 27, 2015

If pride can fill a community, Orfordville burst at the seams Wednesday evening.

Hundreds of people gathered for the ribbon cutting and tours of the Parkview School District's new high school and junior high.

Once inside, their smiles were as bright as the sunshine outside.

Just 16 months ago, after repeated referendum failures, residents passed a $17 million plan to greatly expand and renovate the former Orfordville Elementary into the junior and senior high. Work will continue through much of October to upgrade the former high school and junior high into the elementary school. Footville Elementary has closed, as did Newark Elementary in 2012, consolidating lower grades at Orfordville.

“It's an incredible transformation in such a short amount of time,” Superintendent Steve Lutzke told the crowd during the brief dedication ceremony. “You can't drive by Orfordville without noticing something's different.”

Much detail work must be completed before classes start Tuesday. Still, “beautiful,” “amazing” and “awesome” were words heard often.

Not everyone is thrilled. The property tax increase hit many residents hard in this mostly rural district.

But getting students out of the old senior/junior high was important. It wasn't designed properly to serve kids those sizes. Ceilings were low, lighting dim and locker rooms tiny. Small restrooms had exposed plumbing and lacked handicapped accessibility. The little cafeteria lacked appeal, and the kitchen didn't meet modern standards. In the small gym, support pillars behind each hoop had to be covered with padding to try and keep basketball players from injury.

As Lutzke suggested, bringing visitors was “embarrassing.”

That's the building being remodeled into the elementary school.

The inviting entrance at the new senior/junior high leads into an attractive commons and cafeteria flooded with natural light. The building looks like a high school. It has modern science labs and offers a much larger library with computer labs, and larger choir, art, band and ag rooms.

The gym is bright, seats 1,100 and can be split into three courts for practices. It rivals any in the Rock Valley Conference. The building's old gym was remodeled into six classrooms.

In both schools, new heating replaces troublesome, inefficient boilers. Students throughout the schools will learn in modern, air-conditioned comfort.

Absent upgrades in this era of open enrollment, Parkview faced a death spiral. Referendum critics advocated merging with an adjoining district. But most neighboring districts had higher property taxes, and students would have endured terribly long bus rides.

Buildings don't educate kids. Good teachers and support staff and solid curriculum, along with supportive parents, must do that job.

But as Lutzke told The Gazette, “a building does set a tone and a mood.”

One couple on the tour are relatively new to the district and opposed the referendum. They admitted the results were fantastic, changes came faster than they imagined, and they never considered the morale boost.

Janesville's Carolyn Peterson is a retired English teacher who taught her first year at Parkview. She's excited to know her twin sister's grandchildren will be the third generation of family members attending Parkview schools.

“It's just the most wonderful, positive thing for this community in a long time,” she said after touring the building.

When adults value and invest in education, students get the message that it's important, too.

Quality schools are a top priority when people choose communities, and they can spur economic development. Wednesday's buzz in Orfordville suggests a brighter future for Parkview students and the community, as well.


Share on Facebook Comments Comments Print Print