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School Board approves $2.3 million in Eisenhower improvements

March 24, 2014

New Berlin — The long-awaited updating of Eisenhower Middle/High School is about to begin with more than $2.3 million in improvements slated for the science rooms, auditorium and athletic locker rooms.

The New Berlin School Board gave the nod last week to plans that will be put into action this summer. All the projects, except replacing the seating in the auditorium, removing any asbestos that might be in the floor and adding sprinklers, should be finished by the start of school, said Andy Stefancin, director of buildings and grounds.

Although the auditorium should be done by Oct. 1, he acknowledged, "It's going to hamper our fall play a little bit."

School Board President Dave Maxey applauded the redesign of the auditorium layout that adds an aisle to reduce the distance from the center of rows to an aisle. Right now, people seated in the middle of rows are pretty much stuck, Maxey said, if they want to leave their seats because there are so many people to squeeze past.

Also, the new seats themselves will give a rich feel because their red color will blend with the brick in the auditorium, Stefancin said.

The science, auditorium and locker projects will be the first really noticeable components of the school's updates. Ceilings are already being ripped out for energy efficiency projects and to install sprinklers throughout the school. That work started last fall and should be completed this fall. Similarly, the worst bathrooms have already been updated.

The summer projects will be paid for mainly with surpluses that have built up in the fund balance over the years. Even though large sums will be taken out of the fund balance, it will still be comfortably within the 15 percent of the operating budget that the schools use as a target for the size of the fund balance, said Roger Dickson, chief finance and operations officer. The 15 percent was recommended by the district's financial advisers. The small amount of spending that is to be paid for with tax money has already been factored into the levy for the current 2013-14 school year, Dickson said.

The centerpiece of this summer's work will be recreating and updating the science area, which will include converting the wood and metal shops into two classrooms and a lab for the national science, technology, engineering and math program called Project Lead the Way.

The metal shop has not been used for years, but the wood shop is still in use. Starting this fall, wood shop students will use the Project Lead the Way lab space.

The two current physics rooms will be moved upstairs to be across from the new Project Lead the Way classrooms. The physics rooms also will have a large lab and collaborative area so that students in other classes such as math can participate in learning experiences.

A darkroom will be created in the physics area for laser and light experiments.

The current chemistry and biology rooms will be updated to provide four chemistry rooms and three biology rooms with any of the chemistry rooms also suitable for biology, Stefancin said. There will be three empty science rooms that will be developed later, possibly for earth sciences.

School officials didn't want to jump the gun on making decisions prematurely about the use of those three rooms, said Superintendent Joe Garza. Their eventual use will depend largely on the discussions now taking place on the state level as to whether Wisconsin continues to go ahead with the new Common Core standards, he said.

The science updates are deemed important to improve instruction because the science rooms are heavily used and need updating to best prepare students for the colleges they want to attend, officials said.

Splitting the current boys team locker room into a team room for boys and another one for girls will be done to give fairness to girls teams who don't currently have a team room.

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