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Neighbors Growing Together | Apr 19, 2018

W-MU considers 21st Century learning

Board tables building design plans to discuss vision for the district’s future
Dec 14, 2017

By Karyn Spory, Mt. Pleasant News

 

WINFIELD — If the Winfield-Mt. Union Community School District is going to ask voters to approve a multimillion dollar building project, Superintendent Jeff Maeder believes that improvement needs to include taking the school into a 21st Century learning environment.

Although the agenda for the school board meeting Wednesday, Dec. 13, called for school board members to consider and possibly vote on a design plan for the facility improvements, Maeder asked the decision be tabled.

Moments before, BLDD Architect Sam Johnson, walked the school board members through the two possible design choices — identified as option two and option three. During previous meetings, option three had been the front-runner with the school board and administration. However, Johnson said the two-story design concept was not within the school’s funding capacity. Option two created new pre-K and Kindergarten classrooms and industrial tech classroom, while expanding the band/choir room and gym. The project was estimated to cost the district roughly $9.5 million. “The concept pushes us, just as the previous one did, right to the upper end of what the district can spend given your current financial status,” said Johnson.

Last February, voters in the W-MU School District shot down a 9.5 million building project, which would have addressed the forementioned classrooms. The bond referendum, however, was only for $7.3 million as the district had roughly $2.3 million from state’s penny sales tax, which would have aided in the total cost of the project.

Maeder said he had concerns because although the design would make great improvements to those specific classrooms, the rest of the building, and students not in those classrooms, would not feel the affect of the $9.5 million project. Maeder said he felt a portion of the project needed to focus on making the district able to educate 21st Century leanings.

“I think to build something and have an educational system that continues to remain the same as it always has been would be a disservice. It would be cheating our community and our kids, for sure,” said Maeder.

Johnson said there were two ways to get the district to a 21st Century educational environment — construction and non-construction. Johnson said the non-construciton approach involved reconfiguring furniture and existing learning spaces.

Twenty-first Century learning spaces veer away from traditional desks in a row and encourage small group collaboration. During the discussion, Johnson showed several examples of schools in Wisconsin he and his colleagues recently toured. These classrooms included tall tables the students could stand at, couches, bean bag chairs, and multiple white board/smartboards within the room. Johnson also discussed the Charles City School District, which recently constructed a 21st Century learning environment for their students.

“Have you had any push back from parents who don’t understand how a student can learn in a beanbag chair because that’s not the (envirnoment) they were taught in,” asked school board member Aaron Cummings.

Johnson chuckled, saying that if anything building in Charles City has ramped up the enthusiasm parents have about 21st Century learning.

For W-MU, Johnson said constructing a 21st Century school now is not feasible, but there were program solutions the district could look at. He and Maeder suggested the board members as well as members of the facility improvement committee tour districts in the area who have reassessed their classrooms.

“When I saw the price tag on this, I thought if this is really the right thing. I want to make sure we do this right,” said Maeder.

Maeder also wants to get teachers, community members and students together to see what their vision is for the future of the district. “I don’t see any reason why Winfield-Mt. Union isn’t going to still be a viable school 25 years from now.”

Maeder added that with the new line of discussion, the district may not be ready for a bond vote in April 2018, which had been the goal.

Before tabling the design plan, board President Klay Edwards reminded the board that getting a new HVAC System was a priority and something that, if the bond vote kept being pushed down the line, may not be able to wait.

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