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A 'daunting' task for Dixon schools

Plan committee finds challenges in district's buildings

Published: Friday, Aug. 9, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Aug. 9, 2013 4:17 p.m. CDT

DIXON – A tour Thursday of Dixon High School certainly caught the attention of some members of a committee assessing the district's buildings.

The attention wasn't necessarily positive.

The strategic planning committee's 14 members now have toured all of the Dixon district's school buildings. Next week, they tour its athletic facilities. Then they'll meet in September to discuss their findings.

The group is working to create a vision for district facilities for the next 5, 10 or 15 years. It will make recommendations to the school board for possible building consolidations, land acquisition and development, and will include cost estimates, federal and state grants, and funding options.

The data will serve as the foundation for the district's long-range plan, school board member Jim Schielein said.

Schielein discussed issues the group found at the high school. For example, its mechanical building has two large boilers operating inefficiently – one of them dates back to the 1956 addition.

"That boiler is something that's going to last forever, but is it going to run efficiently? 'No,'" Schielein said. "That's a big-ticket, costly item."

Also, Schielein mentioned each of the high school's eight zones of roofs will need to be replaced or repaired in the next 5 years.

"It's very obvious there are some challenges that have come out since we've gone around, even for us board members," Schielein said. "So far it's been interesting, I've seen things I haven't seen in my 3 years on the board, problems I didn't know existed. We get the monthly reports, but this is bigger picture stuff."

" ... It's pretty daunting of what we're faced with with keeping these buildings going."

That said, Schielein said the committee's recommendations will have to be realistic.

"It really comes down to dollars, what we can we afford to continue," Schielein said. "Can we offer a quality education long term, keeping in mind the resources the taxpayer is paying for? Where is the break point? Does it make sense to continue to maintain facilities, or go to a different direction?"

Also on the committee, which has been meeting each Thursday since June, are Superintendent Michael Juenger; Building and Grounds Supervisor Kevin Schultz; board member John Jacobs, teachers Elizabeth Bushman and Aaron Eddy; and community members Jon Gieson, Angie Harrison, Deb Drengenberg, Dave Schreiner, Chris Hammitt, Rob LeSage, Tom Shaw and Al Duncan.

Schultz told the committee June 13 that 79 percent of the district's buildings are more than 50 years old. The historic high school is an 84-year-old structure on a flood plain, and Lincoln Elementary School is 76 years old.

The committee was formed, Schielein said, because the district needed to gather as much information as possible to come up with a plan for its aging buildings to present to the public. That task became even more imperative, he said, after the second defeat in April of a referendum asking for a 1-percentage-point sales tax increase.

To attend

The Dixon schools' strategic planning committee will meet again from 7 to 8:30 a.m. Aug. 22 at Dixon High School, 300 Lincoln Statue Drive, to tour the district's outdoor facilities.

For more information, call the district office at 815-284-7722.

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