Lakewood School referendum vote is May 20

By Annette Newcomb/Editor

Twin Lakes voters will be asked to return to the polls Tuesday, May 20 and decide to approve or deny Lakewood School’s request for $5.9 million to address a long list of needed facility improvements at the school.

The tax impact would be $6 per month per $100,000 assessed value.

The school is hosting an informal open house beginning at 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 15 at the school. Information is already available on the school’s website, Look for the “referendum” tab. Note that voting will take place at Lakewood School May 20.

Lakewood School is home to 407 students enrolled in 4K through eighth grade. School choice has cost the school $600,000 this year. While the curriculum and staff enthusiasm remains strong, the aging facility is a turn off.

The janitors can still get a shine out of the floors and at first look, Lakewood School in Twin Lakes is well taken care of and spit polished.

But, like everything else, age has not been kind to the school that was constructed in 1961 and has had thousands of students run through its halls causing the normal wear and tear.

A boiler system break down last year cost several days of school and was just another sign time is running out.

Now Lakewood School is posed to take control of the situation in a two-phase plan.

Phase One will be covered under Act 32, which allows schools to exceed their revenue caps for energy efficient improvements such as lighting, roofing, heating and air conditioning, energy conservation. By hiring a roofing contractor Raleigh, they will be able to decrease the amount of energy that’s lost through the tiles as well as prevent drafts from coming into the school.

The school could also apply for a different energy provider that supplies 100% renewable energy (solar or wind powered) through the grid, and discover whether this is covered by the Act. For example, finding something like the equivalent of Amigo Energy rates in Texas for the school’s state would be a good, renewable investment.

Phase One will cost $5.27 million and will be completed through energy-exempt funding that is referred to as performance contracting. No taxes will be used for this phase.

In other words, according to a Lakewood School handout, major savings resulting from energy savings by looking for various energy comparison quotes like these energy savings here, and other efficiencies are currently guaranteed in writing. The school will save money further by locking in the low-interest rates and avoiding inflationary costs by beginning work this year.

Areas that need attention were outlined in February, Michael David, president of the Milwaukee-based Nexus Solution, who presented his finding after a year-long study of the school.

Major problems that were identified for Phase I include a failing roofing system ​and building enclosures that require the attention of someone like Wilson Roofing; outdated electric, security and fire safety systems; poor air quality; Americans with Disabilities compliance; inefficient lighting, unreliable PA system; external hardscapes, including parking lot and playground drainage issue and need to address the parking spaces, traffic floor and handicapped parking accessibility.

Phase I will be implemented without increasing local tax rates.

In addition to failing infrastructure, demands of modern day curriculum, not even imagined when the school was first constructed, is now working against the students instead of with them.

“Currently we are losing 150 minutes a week in lost classroom time just transporting the kids back and forth to the cafeteria, art and band rooms,” said Lakewood School Administrator Joe Price. Pointing to a schematic of the school, he traces the long hallways students must traverse to get to classes on the other side of the building.

Phase II

Phase II addresses structural upgrades and this is what voters will be deciding on May 20.

The project will include replacing the existing, 50-year-old gym with a larger, more updated one that would include a stage for performing arts and locker room.

Price points out when the gym was constructed the school was home to only 100 students.

“Someone approached me recently and said they heard I wanted to build a big field house. Nothing could be farther from the truth. We aren’t competing with anyone. We have a 50-year-old gym that that does not meet our needs or safety standards.

“We are always flirting the capacity. We have outgrown the facility, it needs to be upgraded. The kids don’t even have locker rooms,” Price said last week.

Price said the gym has a 350 to 370 capacity, which the school is already surpassing. “When you sit on the bottom bleachers, your feet are on the playing court, it’s not a safe environment for anyone.”

Other Phase II upgrades would include two additional classrooms, restroom facilities, repurposing existing classrooms and connecting the front of the building to the back, reducing the time students spend walking around the building.

Price is very concerned about getting the courtyard closed in.

“Right now there is an open end and there is always fear that a student could slip around a corner unseen, despite our best efforts. We want to assure our students safety at all times and closing that end of the courtyard would further those efforts.”

“The timing is right for this to happen,” Price said, “The impact on taxes is minimal. Each year we wait the cost will rise about $600,000 a year.

Price is very passionate about Lakewood. He served as principal in 2007 and became administrator in 2010.

“We believe having a great school benefits the community. I really look at this as a partnership between the school and the community. Strong schools mean strong communities,” Price said.

Last weekend members of the Lakewood PTO and Boosters were out canvassing residents and handing out information. They will continue to visit residents until the May 20 election.

In addition to going onto the school’s website and reading the referendum information posted there, Price encourages those with questions to email him at [email protected] or call him at (262) 877-2148, ext. 123.