By Ben Rodgers
SUAMICO – The Howard-Suamico School District will rack a few more weights, after the school board agreed Monday, Jan. 13, to an addition and remodel of the current weight room and wrestling area.
The project is to build, outfit and brand nearly 7,500 square feet of new, and remodel roughly 3,700 square feet of existing strength and conditioning space.
As part of the project, the district will build, outfit and brand approximately 1,300 square feet of new, and remodel close to 3,700 square feet of existing wrestling space.
The project cost is expected to be $2.8 million and will result in 11,000 square feet of best-in-class strength and conditioning space, said Matt Spets, assistant superintendent of operations.
Spets said this project will be completed without borrowing, because of some outside help.
The district also received donations of $550,000 dedicated for the project.
“Doing this now versus waiting 2 1/2 years, we’re probably saving $1 million because donations are contingent on us doing it now,” Spets said. “From a strategic, financial perspective, it would be really difficult to not pull the trigger on this project.”
The majority of the remainder of the cost will come from Fund 46, a state-mandated fund all districts must have to use for capital improvement projects.
Spets presented some numbers to support the need for the weight room project:
• In 2012, there were 100 students in strength and conditioning courses at Bay Port. Today that number is close to 700.
• Each summer, roughly 600 students take physical education courses at Bay Port.
• In a given year in the district, there are 1,700 students in grades 7-12 who participate in athletic programs, or more than half of the student body for those grades.
“That’s almost the size of the average K-12 distirct in Wisconsin,” Spets said. “It’s about 1,800 students. That’s substantial. Again, strength and conditioning, having the space is the foundation for all this work.”
This year’s football team made it to the state championship game at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Nov. 22, before eventually losing 21-10 to Muskego High School.
The team is coached by Gary Westerman, who also teaches physical education and strength and conditioning courses at the high school.
Westerman said more girls are taking the advanced athletic performance course with at least 30 enrolled this year.
He was joined at the meeting by his son, Josh, who is in kindergarten and just finished wrestling practice.
Westerman said there are roughly 85 kids in wrestling between the ages of 4k and first grade, making the youth program the “largest it’s been, by far.”
He said the current weight room is busy throughout the day, and the wrestling room is not only used by groups after school, but during the day as well.
“Let’s face it, timing is everything,” said Superintendent Damian LaCroix. “So the success of the seasons, the window of opportunity, taking advantage of success breeds success, and people want to be associated with the success of the district and the program, and we want to capitalize on that in an appropriate way.”
However, the district is in the midst of planning a possible referendum for April 2021.
District voters once again could have go to the polls to support keeping class sizes down, paying teachers competitively and maintaining existing facilities, plus another potential project that has not been determined yet.
Brian Nicol, communications director, outlined some dates for community engagement to collect data in regards to the next referendum question.
The district is paying $32,000 for 18 months of use of ThoughtExchange, an online tool which helps sort through the noise of social media to gain community opinion.
“It’s an idea meritocracy,” Nicol said. “It allows us to have ideas relate with each other and not just have people share their feelings, but react to other’s feelings.”
He presented the following dates to gather data from shareholders:
• Jan. 30, administrative team ThoughtExchange.
• Feb. 14, all staff ThoughtExchange.
• Feb. 18, Bay View and Bay Port student ThoughtExchange.
• Feb. 28, community publication mailed out.
• March 18, launch a new district website and announce community ThoughtExchange and listening sessions.
• April 7, school board election.
• April 21, community survey.
• April 24, spring newsletter mailed.
• May 18, survey results.
“If the community tells us something different in this process, that could really shape what a referendum could look like,” said Trustee Vanessa Moran.