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Town of Merton – The Arrowhead School Board continues to wrestle with facility needs at the high school, in the wake of the Nov. 8 defeat of a $64 million referendum.

At a special board meeting Nov. 29, board members debated safety and infrastructure improvements, which include HVAC, roofing and fire alarm system improvements. For those projects alone, a total of $20 million to $22 million is projected.

The rejected referendum included infrastructure maintenance as well as construction of a new pool and expanded auditorium. Now, the board is trying to come up with a pared-down plan.

“Most of this meeting was looking at the big box of numbers of maintenance issues between North and South Campus, what’s absolute, what ties into each other,” said Arrowhead School Board President Bob Rosch. He added that the number was hard to cut due to the repairs tying into each other.

One of the proposed repairs the board discussed in particular was new LED light fixtures, brought up by representatives of Meyer Construction and Eppstein Uhen, the architecture firm Arrowhead High School consults with. Board members expressed concerns about the expense of the lights, but members of those teams emphasized the long-term savings and benefits for the school.

“There is financial long-term benefits for the school to maybe invest in that now because we know (for) the operational budget, that saves money,” Rosch said of the proposed light fixtures. “That makes sense, and that’s what we’re prioritizing.”

While taking into consideration the cost of the repairs, board member Tim Langer advised the board to also consider the changes from a marketing perspective.

“We got to offer some of the stuff that may not be time critical just to be able to say, ‘Look what we’re doing for our kids and our school,'” Langer said.

Board member Kent Rice agreed.

“I feel that we need to put in here what we feel we need to do from an educational and infrastructure standpoint that we feel we need to do,” Rice said. “To pick a number and say ‘OK, let’s start throwing things out just to get to some artificial number someone hopefully thinks might pass,’ I think is the wrong way to go about this. I still think we need to put in what we think needs to be done.”

Rice added that he was in support of the infrastructure improvements, but also wanted to have visual cues to show the public the school was moving into the 21st century.

“I still think we need to look at what we think needs to be done in this facility and let the number fall where it may, and we know $64 million is not going to pass. That’s not an issue, but I caution us not to be nitpicking and throwing numbers out there.”

Going forward, the board will do another facilities tours of some of the classrooms in need on Tuesday, Dec. 6, during another special board meeting to discuss instructional area improvements.

Eppstein Uhen public outreach specialist Kit Dailey said the board is trying to focus on being responsive to the community after it turned down the November referendum.

“They’re really trying to get focused on the most urgent facility and instructional needs, and that’s hard because they believed in the last plan as well,” Dailey said. “It’s not easy to leave those needs involved, but I think they’re trying to take it one step at a time.”

Citizen comments

Dave Joyce, a coach on the Lake Country Swim Team also spoke in the early part of the board meeting. He said that if the swimming pool was in a separate question, it might have a better chance to pass.

Joyce went on to touch on a couple other schools’ efforts to put in new pools, referring to Germantown’s referendum of renovating its current pool area into a fitness center area, and a new Milwaukee private school, St. Augustine, that will open next summer, that was also putting in a pool.

Joyce also noted that parents of the swim team met that night to discuss fundraising ideas for a future pool.

“We know we’re not going to be able to do that without coming up with some money through the swim community, through the swim team, through the youth lesson program, and through some additional sources,” Joyce said. “We are actively working to make that happen.”

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