By Dave Fidlin

Correspondent

While there are more questions than answers at this point, changes could be afoot at Fox River Middle School.

And the changes could result in a range of improvements that could cost anywhere from $19.95 million to $41.3 million. Regardless of the option, a referendum would be needed, and it has tentatively been slated for November 2018.

Fox River, built in 1967, hosts all seventh- and eighth-grade students in the Waterford Graded School District. Officials in recent years have noted its cramped quarters and perceived obsolete learning environment.

The district has enlisted the services of two consulting firms – Plunkett Raysich Architects and Scherrer Construction – and representatives from both companies have been providing officials with periodic updates.

Nicholas Kent works within Plunkett Raysich’s so-called education studio and specializes in planning learning environments that mirror 21st Century technology and classroom spaces. Kent came before WGSD’s School Board during a Committee of the Whole meeting Aug. 7.

Kent discussed a list of five possible options stemming from the Fox River discussion. The most recent list has been refined from lists presented earlier this year.

The least costly of the options presented would entail renovating and expanding the existing Fox River facility.

Another possibility lower on the cost spectrum is a school reconfiguration that would unwind the current neighborhood elementary schools model, if implemented. Fox River would be razed, and the other three existing schools would be revamped to host specific grade levels.

Proposals with higher price tags would include razing Fox River and building a new school in its place. Several iterations of that overarching concept were presented at this week’s meeting.

During the discussion at the COW meeting, several board members wondered aloud if a sixth option should be added to the mix.

“Maybe we could add an option six and look at building on a separate plot of land,” board member Mandy Fiehweg said.

District Administrator Ed Brzinski said that possibility could be added, though he was quick to point out there are a number of “ifs” to that scenario at this time.

Looking at available land in the Village of Waterford, Brzinski said WGSD could explore a few possible options of building a new middle school away from the Main Street thoroughfare.

Land along Buena Park Road, near Trailside Elementary School, is one option, Brzinski said. Another possibility is undeveloped land off Highway 36, near Walgreens.

“These are some of the most obvious sites for new construction,” Brzinski said. “But we haven’t investigated any of them.”

Before digging too much further into details, WGSD officials are about to embark on a series of community engagement sessions that are aimed at getting the community’s pulse on how the district should proceed with such an important decision.

The engagement sessions will be held Aug. 24, Sept. 7, Sept. 13 and Sept. 14. Times and venues for each sessions will be announced soon.

“I’m very interested in hearing from the community,” School Board President Dawn Bleimehl said. The goal, she said, is to get input from all members of the community, including parents and senior citizens.

Kent said the engagement sessions will be an important barometer in determining how the district should proceed with the planning process.

“It’s important to get something out to the community and let it be known something is being considered,” Kent said. “We want to plant those seeds so people know where to look for more information.”

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