Shawano School Board commits to middle school

Meeting current maintenance needs will prolong use another decade
Kevin Passon

Members of the Shawano School Board reached a consensus June 19 and committed the district to not abandon Shawano Community Middle School for at least the next decade.

Instead, the board agreed an immediate investment in critical maintenance is needed to preserve the structural integrity of the school. In 2031, the district and community should again analyze options for the future of the building.

Jody Andres, K-12 market leader and senior project architect for Hoffman Planning, Design and Construction Inc., said the statement was adopted based on feedback from the community and residents’ demand for a concrete direction on the use of the building.

Enrollment today is 468 students, but that number is expected to decline due to lower birth rates and increased open enrollment trends, Andres said.

Hoffman officials used four models to predict enrollment. Depending on the model, enrollment is projected to be between 363 and 424 in 2031-32, when the numbers will stabilize.

“What we’re projecting is you are going to continue to lose enrollment at the middle school and across the district,”Andres said. “That’s based on current birth rate trends and open enrollment trends that you’re having.”

Declines are predicted to stabilize in 2031-32.

“That’s also going to be dependent on what happens with open enrollment and economic growth in the community,” Andres said.

According to Andres, if trends continue as they have, the building’s capacity needs will decrease 6-10% from today.

“Even if you’re remodeling the existing middle school (in the 2030s), the thing you need to remember is you may not need to remodel that entire facility as we look at that smaller population,” he said.

However, Andres also noted infrastructure updates will be substantial in the next 10-15 years. He projects $16 million in maintenance work will need to be addressed, with some of those needs met if the fall 2024 referendum is approved by voters.

With the last major systems update at the building occurring in 2016, officials will need to consider replacing them in 2036-41.

Andres said the district in 2031 will again need to study the future of the building, based on a smaller enrollment and less space needs, as well as a the replacement schedule for mechanical and other building systems.

Giving itself another seven years before those decisions need to be made will allow the district officials to ensure their not putting money into the facility that could be abandoned before the lifespan of roofs and other systems end.

“We’re trying to minimize that kind of spending,” Andres said.

Board member Jeana Winslow liked the plan but had concerns, too.

“We could a lot of Band-Aids on it the next seven years and then realize we’re not going to build a new one, and we’re stuck with what we’ve Band-Aided for years,” she said. “That would be a problem.”

“I don’t know what’s going to happen, but you might see a more significant decrease (in enrollment), and at that point, you may say, ‘We just can’t fill four schools anymore. We can only fill three schools,’ and that kind of dictates what that option would be,” Andres said. “It’s certainly going to allow you to better understand what sort of investment in that existing school you need to make based on where you’re at at that point.”

Shawano Community Middle School, 1050 S. Union St., Shawano, was built as a high school in 1955 and was converted to a middle school in 1997 when the new high school was built.

Small additions were built in 1961, 1968 and 1976. A 1967 addition nearly doubled the size of the school.

When the building was converted to a middle school, about 20% of the space was remodeled with minor updates to building mechanical systems. In 2016, about 15% of the building space underwent remodeling and more significant updates were completed to the mechanical systems after voters passed a referendum.