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Community invited to arts center discussion

At a meeting on June 17, the Cambridge School Board announced it is seeking community members to join a performing arts center task force. This follows the board’s decision on April 15 to form the task force and its decision on May 22 to hire Eppstein Uhen Architects, of Milwaukee. The district is eyeing a possible April 2020 referendum and, later, looking to possibly hire a construction manager.

A handful of school board members, district administrators and Eppstein Uhen representatives have met twice since May to get the task force off the ground. Board members decided the task force should include more than ten members, but less than 25. Superintendent Bernie Nikolay said the district has already identified more than a dozen people to possibly participate. That leaves the school district still seeking two to three at-large members.

“You never know who’s out there in the community that we haven’t really identified yet and might have some good value to bring,” Board Treasurer Mike Huffman said. “I agree that we want at least a couple of those at-large members.”

The School Board plans to advertise for those remaining spots through local media.
The hope is to have a final list of task force members compiled by July or August.
Board Vice President Jim Womble said the task force needs to be carefully balanced.
“You need to be open to bringing folks in that aren’t necessarily rock-solid in favor of this idea. We need to have that part of the input as well, to make this task force truly representative,” Womble said. “The public is going to be welcome at every one of those task force meetings,” he added.

April 2020 is now the target referendum date. Nikolay said that would allow enough time to find task force members and for Eppstein Uhen Architects finish a needs assessment. The last possible date the School Board can set the April referendum is Jan. 28, 2020. The task force would tentatively meet four times beginning in August or later, and make a presentation to the School Board in December.

Nikolay said administrators have recently weighed the benefits of bringing in a construction manager sooner rather than later. The board may vote to send out a request for proposals July 8, and conduct interviews and hire a construction manager by mid-August. Under the advice of Eppstein Uhen Architects, the school district is weighing hiring the Wisconsin Applied Populations Lab at UW-Madison, to study Cambridge’s future enrollment. Nikolay said such a study, estimated to cost $3,500, might help determine the performing arts center’s seating capacity.

The school district last considered building an auditorium in 2012 as part of a referendum to fund renovations at the high school. Abicus Architects, of Milwaukee and Sheboygan, drew up designs for a performing arts center that ultimately was excluded from the referendum.

SLC Director:

In other matters, the School Board voted to keep the director position at the Severson Learning Center a full-time job. The current director of the 82-acre school farm on Oakland Road, Jennifer Scianna, is leaving in late June to pursue a master’s degree. As a full-time director, part of Scianna’s job was developing Koshkonong Trails, a project-based charter school in the district now housed at the SLC. Now that the school is up and running, administrators weighed whether the SLC director position should stay full-time. “(Grant-writing for Koshkonong Trails) took up a huge part of her time. There’s a lot more that is on the job description that wasn’t able to get done,” Nikolay said. “It is a full-time job in my estimation.” “We really all agree that the best outcomes for our kids are going to happen if we have a full-time person out there,” SLC committee member Georgia Gomez-Ibanez said.

Some of those duties of the SLC Director include managing facilities, coordinating the internship program, animal care, grant writing and planning two opportunities for district students to visit the farm. Nikolay also cited liability concerns as a reason to keep a full-time director.

The district tossed around areas that could be expanded with a full-time director, like ownership of the community garden, opening the SLC to community events, renting space for local businesses, creating retreat opportunities, CAP programs and taking on more land management at Cambridge Elementary School. “It was offered to go down to 50 percent not because we wanted to, but we were uncertain about the budget. That was just one of those things put forward as a possible reduction, but nobody was advocating for that,” Nikolay said. Nikolay said he estimated cutting the position to part-time would save the district about $30,000. “It appears that we really don’t need, given the current state of the budget, (to cut the position) as a budget move,” Womble said.

The board discussed the condition of the budget at its June 17 meeting. Business Manager Mark Worthing said he anticipates the district to have a surplus next year in its fund balance, due to a projected $200 per student increase from state funding, and higher open enrollment numbers. Board members spent time talking about what those extra funds could pay for, including capital projects, keeping the SLC director full-time and hiring EUA for the performing arts center.

Pool Renovations:

The Cambridge School Board also approved about $100,000 in renovations to the Cambridge Community Pool. Carrico Aquatic Resources Inc., based in Jefferson, gave quotes for replacing the filter system in the pool and installing an environmental control and communication system. The district will spend $48,000 to remove its steel pool tank and install a fiberglass sand filter system.

Carrico Aquatic Resources will also install a communication system to preserve air quality, and save energy. The system includes a chemical controller, chlorine regulator and a UV light system for killing microbes that cause illnesses. The cost of the pool renovations will come out of the district’s capital improvements fund.

Madeline Westberg
Cambridge News & Deerfield Independent

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