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Mequon — When students at Oriole Lane Elementary School have something deeply emotional to talk about, they have an unusual place to do it. As it stands, students are escorted through the area near the kitchen to a partitioned area that serves as the guidance office.

Orchestra students at the same school practice in a closet where reams of paper are also stored and students with special needs have physical therapy in the cafeteria between meal times and when floors are being cleaned.

Elsewhere, at Wilson Elementary School, students in math and reading intervention programs share a partitioned space.

The good news is these are among the things set to change if the Mequon-Thiensville School District moves forward with plans to add seven classrooms to three elementary schools.

The time is now for parents in the district to voice their opinions about a total of $2.34 million in improvements in the district, including the expansion of three elementary schools.

Space constraints and what is referred to in school district materials as facilities that are 'in massive need for improvement' have prompted the district to consider expanding three of its elementary schools and constructing a pavilion adjacent to Homestead High School's football stadium.

The board could make a decision on plans as soon as its meeting in February, and in the meantime is seeking feedback from the public.

Dollars and sense

The majority of the cost will be covered by the $1.6 million of funds remaining from the district's 2015 sale of land along Swan Road, a property formerly reserved for a second high school that won't be built.

Another $500,000 would be from the district's fund balance, and the majority of the remaining amount would come from Fund 21, which Director of Business Services Gail Greiger explained helps cover capital projects.

Nicholas Kent, an architect and partner with Milwaukee-based Plunkett Raysich Architects, explained to the board in a recent meeting that while the middle and high schools have sufficient space to grow, the elementary schools are a different story. Based on an updated review of a similar study conducted three years ago, Kent said the elementary schools are all above their target capacities, which could be a problem with enrollment projected to be on the rise in the future.

Two options were under consideration, according to Kent, who explained option one included a proposal to consolidate all 4-year-old kindergarten classes in one place at Range Line School following a renovation of the school that has been closed as a school since the 2004-05 school year.

To bring the school to where it needs to be in terms of indoor and outdoor renovations, as well as impact on other things like the district's transportation costs, would have cost about $2 million.

In addition, the building is still utilized for school board meetings, a private day care and the recreation department, which would likely see a negative impact to its space under the plan.

Modernizing classroom space

With a price tag slightly less than what an overhaul to Range Line would be, Kent also outlined a $1.6 million plan that would add what he called 'modern' classrooms to the existing schools.

'I am encouraged to see how thoughtful the plans are,' said Alex Pasher, an Oriole Lane parent. '(It's) a way to continue to use space that's already there (to replace something that is) clearly not optimal.'

Included in those plans would be the addition of two classrooms each to Donges Bay and Oriole Lane and three at Wilson, in addition to renovating an area near the Oriole Lane kitchen so it could be more suitable for instruction.

In each of the capacity studies of the elementary schools, plans could help provide schools with some breathing room in addition to 'room to grow,' Kent explained.

'Even before 4K came (this year), we didn't have enough space for what we have to do,' said Jill Hemr, who described Oriole Lane as very crowded. 'There is definitely a need there, whether 4K is there or not. This would be a wonderful addition to Oriole so we can actually breathe a little bit more and the students can have some space to do the things they actually need.'

Another pain point that could be resolved under the plan is the addition of the pavilion, which, aside from being an asset to the curriculum and athletic department, would offer respite from the existing offering of two porta potty's.

At an estimated cost of about $689,000, the plans for the pavilion include restrooms and a concession stand, as well as two multipurpose rooms that could be used as team rooms.

'I think everyone knows the biggest lack of concern is the lack of running water for concessions,' Pasher said. 'It's a little be of an embarrassment, to be honest with you, when people have to use those facilities.'

A portion of the cost of the pavilion will be covered by a significant donation by Sommer's Subaru last year, which was specified for the construction on the pavilion, and has prompted the pavilion to be named the Sommer's Subaru Pavilion.

'We see a community pavilion really becoming a centerpiece for our outdoor athletic high school events,' said Superintendent Demond Means. 'The fact that there aren't standardized restrooms available for visitors to our campus is really important to us.'

The next step for the plans to expand space at elementary schools and begin work on the construction of the pavilion is to seek approval by the board, which School Board President Mary Cyrier said will follow careful consideration by the board as well as thoughtful review of input from the community.

NEXT STEP

WHAT:possible decision by the Mequon-Thiensville School Board on plans for expanding elementary space, community pavilion

WHEN: 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 15

WHERE:Range Line Elementary School conference room, 11040 N. Range Line Road

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