Baraboo middle school will receive $42M renovation after voters approve referendum Tuesday

April 3, 2019

The Baraboo School Board’s outreach efforts appear to have paid off -- thanks to voters, its aging middle school soon will be renovated and expanded.

“Clearly we’re overwhelmed with gratitude,” said Sean McNevin, school board treasurer and member of the referendum planning committee. “It’s just going to be an exciting investment at Jack Young Middle School, but more importantly, we feel that this is a validation of all the hard work of our staff and students.”

Voters Tuesday approved a $41.7 million renovation project for Jack Young Middle School that district leaders estimate would add about 45,000 square feet to the building. District Administrative Assistant Ellen Weiland said 100 percent of precincts had reported their unofficial results at 2,322 “yes” votes and 2,100 “no” votes. That’s a margin of 52.5 percent approval to 47.5 percent.

This is the third Baraboo school referendum voters have passed in recent years.

A $22 million referendum passed in 2016 to fund improvements to Baraboo High School, and a $10 million referendum passed in 2014 to fund security and maintenance renovations at each of the district’s schools. Improvements to the middle school are part of the third phase of the district’s facilities improvement plan.

“We’re just very appreciative to the generosity that the community has for the schools,” McNevin said.

The board committee that’s been working on preliminary plans -- McNevin, Kevin Vodak and Mike Kohlman -- will start right away on planning the project, McNevin said, but it will have a “long time table.”

Categorized into three areas of focus, the project would repair the 43-year-old building’s infrastructure, modernize learning spaces and expand common areas.

The middle school project will raise taxes by 32 cents per $1,000 of property value. That means school-related taxes will increase by $48 on a $150,000 home.

Kohlman and Vodak also were re-elected to their seats on the school board, though there were no challengers. Unofficial results reported by Sauk County as of 10:15 p.m. Tuesday showed Kohlman netting 2,621 votes and Vodak getting 2,775. There were 108 write-ins.

Jack Young Middle School was built in 1976 and still has its original heating and ventilation system and lack of air conditioning. District leaders point to those now inefficient and outdated systems as areas that need attention.

Other areas will need to be addressed due to being out of compliance with modern laws. For example, the ramp leading from the main level to the media center and down to the lower level doesn’t meet requirements set by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Sprinklers also would have to be installed to meet fire code.

To modernize learning spaces, the district plans to install insulated permanent walls that will prevent sound from travelling from one classroom to another, as well as rework classroom spaces with flexible furniture to accommodate individual and group instruction.

Project plans also call for expanding the building, which currently deals with issues caused by a lack of space, especially in common areas such as the cafeteria, kitchen and gymnasium, according to administrators.