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If voters Nov. 4 approve the proposed Racine Unified referendum, nearly $39 million worth of repairs, upgrades and additions at schools in Caledonia, Mount Pleasant and Sturtevant will get addressed.

Photo credit: Racine Unified School District

RUSD Superintendent Lolli Haws visited the Mount Pleasant Village Board meeting earlier this month to give a presentation about the District’s plan for the money if voters say “yes.” She explained that lifting the cap by $8.5 million annually for the next 15 years will not raise property taxes; instead, taxes will go down while state aid will go up.

Four primary areas will be addressed with referendum funds:

  • Repair and modernize schools
  • Enhance technology
  • Improve safety and security
  • Replace 2 schools with new buildings

Haws pointed out that repairs and upgrades include making schools compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act; technology enhancements that will mean more digital resources like iPads and laptops for students since traditional textbooks are becoming a thing of the past. Chalkboards would also be replaced with whiteboards or smartboards, and schools would be heated properly and wired for reliable Internet access.

“This isn’t fluffy stuff,” she said. “Our schools are inefficient and outdated and lack the technology to prepare students for 21st century careers.”

Photo credit: Racine Unified School District

Referendum funds would pay for asbestos removal and lead abatement as well as improved and updated security measures at all school entrances.

Gifford will get an addition to include middle school grades, expanding the student body to full K – 8.

“We’ve heard from community members who live in Caledonia that they want a middle school so we feel this is something they should have,” Haws added.

Plans call for Olympia Brown school, which currently houses the REAL School and O. Brown elementary, to be razed and replaced with a new building. Repairing the facility would cost $17 million while a new school altogether is expected to run between $12 and $13 million.

The lion’s share of the $39 million – about $14 million – is allocated for Case High School, including a new pool and ventilation system. Originally scheduled for construction using funds from the 2008 referendum, officials had to divert money from the pool project to address a serious and costly repair in the field house at Park High School.

Drew Abrams, interim president of the Racine Area Manufacturers and Commerce, recently announced his group’s support of the referendum, according to a story in The Journal Times.

“We think it’s good for the community,” Abrams is quoted as saying. “That’s the bottom line of the whole process.”

He went further with his explanation, saying member organizations rely on an educated workforce, and voters approving the referendum is a good way to get there.

RUSD Spokesperson Stacy Tapp provided Racine County Eye with a breakdown of how much money is needed for each school. Here’s how repairs and upgrades are listed on the RUSD website:

Case High School ($13,936,814):

  • New fire detection system
    • New roof
    • New electrical system
    • Modernized elevator
    • New classroom ventilation
    • New floor tiles or carpet where needed
    • New classroom ceilings where needed
    • New walk-in coolers and freezers for food service kitchen
    • Paved path to athletic field for ADA compliance
    • Accessibility upgrades to press box area
    • New swimming pool and ventilation system
    • New field house floor and bleachers
    • Resurfaced and upgraded track
    • New fire detection system for concession stand
    • New field lighting
    • New lockers for PE and athletic locker rooms
    • Repainted lockers
    • New auditorium lighting and stage equipment

Olympia Brown ($12-$13 million):

• Proposed new building on 5-1/2 Mile Road site (students would continue to attend school in the existing building during construction)

West Ridge ($594,923):

• New boilers, classroom ventilation and thermostat controls
• New paint throughout school
• New floor tiles or carpet where needed
• New classroom ceilings where needed
• New restroom fixtures
• New roof

Schulte ($1,721,513):

• New windows and doors
• New fire detection system
• New electrical systems
• New paint throughout school
• New floor tiles or carpet where needed
• New classroom ceilings where needed

Gifford ($3,398,071):

• Recommended addition of elementary classroom spaces to create K-8 school
• New doors and windows
• Auditorium lighting and stage upgrades
• New paint throughout the school
• New floor tiles or carpet where needed
• New classroom ceilings where needed
• New roof
• New secure entrance
• Paint lockers

North Park ($1,902,631):

• New doors and windows
• New classroom ventilation
• New paint throughout school
• New floor tiles or carpet where needed
• New restroom fixtures
• New roof
• New secure entrance

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