Answers to Your Questions about the Middle School Building Projects

Referendum   FAQ Header (1)

  • Farnsworth was built in 1930, with additions in 1973 and 1996.
  • Urban was built in 1937, with additions in 1982 and 1996.

A facilities study conducted in 2019 identified major challenges at both schools, including:

  • Many major building systems (HVAC, electrical, plumbing) are at the end of their life expectancy.
  • Interior and exterior building components (roofs, windows, doors, sidewalks, parking lots, flooring, ceilings, etc.) need replacement.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) issues such as bathrooms, classroom doors, and more.
  • The buildings lack some modern security features.
  • Classrooms and labs are small and outdated.

The costs associated with these repairs, updates, and refurbishments well exceed our yearly $1.3 million dollar district-wide facilities budget.

  • Spring 2019 - Bray Architects were selected to support Urban and Farnsworth planning efforts.
  • Summer-Fall of 2019 - Facility condition and education needs assessments were completed.
  • Spring 2021-2022 - Citizens Advisory Committee formed and met to explore three options/solutions for each school and made recommendations to the School Board for the proposed solutions (Build a new Urban on a new site and build a new Farnsworth on the current site).
  • Creation and distribution of community survey (March - June)
    • April 9th - BOE will review and approve survey
    • April 20th-May 3 - Survey printed and mailed
    • May 3-22 - Survey open
    • May 6 - Presentation of Traffic Impact Study
    • May 16 - Community meeting at Urban
    • May 20 - Community meeting at Farnsworth
    • June 25 - Survey results shared at the Board Meeting, held in the South High School auditorium
  • Finalization of referendum plan/scope based on survey results (July)
  • Legal drafting and Board adoption of referendum question (Late July/Early August)
  • Referendum information campaign (August-Nov. 4th)
  • Referendum Vote (Nov. 5th)
  • Selection of Construction Manager(s) (Nov. - Dec. 2024)
  • Design and engineering (Dec. 2024 - Jan. 2026)
  • Bidding for construction (Jan. - Feb. 2026)
  • Construction of Farnsworth/Urban (March 2026 - July 2027)
  • Schools open for staff and students (August 2027). Current 2nd, 3rd, and 4th graders will be the first students in the new schools.

The total cost of the recommended Middle School Plan is $140 million.

  • District Contribution to Project Cost - $14.0 million
  • Referendum ask will be $126 million

The referendum's impact on the district mill rate will be $0.30 per $1,000 of property valuation yearly for 20 years.

  • Samples of annual tax impact on fair market values are:
    • $100,000 = $30
    • $250,000 = $75
    • $350,000 = $105

2023-24 District mill rate is $6.09

  • The District’s property tax mill rate is $1.09 below the state average and $0.96 lower than the county average.
  • The lowest compared to other school districts in Sheboygan County, second lowest in the athletic conference, and second lowest when examining comparable (size and demographic) districts.

FARNSWORTH MIDDLE SCHOOL - Build a new Farnworth Middle School on the existing site.

URBAN MIDDLE SCHOOL - Build a new Urban Middle School on 58.7 acres of vacant land at the intersection of Mill and Najacht Roads, 1.4 miles from the existing school site.

FARNSWORTH MIDDLE SCHOOL

  • Renovate and expand Longfellow Elementary School: This was not a viable option due to the cost of renovating and constructing the additional classroom and student areas needed at the middle school level (larger cafeteria, fitness center, science classrooms, technology education spaces, separate band and orchestra rooms, and student support areas).
  • District-owned land near Optimist Park: The land is adjacent to a mink farm, and the smell from the farm would not be conducive to learning. In addition, the entry and access to this land are not conducive to smooth drop-off and pick-up.
  • Vacant Land near the District’s Administrative Services Building (ASB): While land might be acquired near the ASB, relocating Farnsworth over 3 miles south of the current building would cause significant transportation challenges and costs, as all students would have to be bussed to and from the school.


URBAN MIDDLE SCHOOL
It was a five-year process to review and vet all possible sites to arrive at the final recommended location.

  • Donated North 15th Street property (former Polar Ware Company site) currently owned by the district: While this was originally proposed for the new Urban Middle School after site due diligence was completed, this site was determined not to be a viable solution. For further information, please refer to the next question.
  • Former Aurora Hospital site: This site was determined by Aurora and the City to become housing lots prior to the proposed rebuild of Urban Middle School.
  • Acquisition of properties to the east of Urban Middle School: There are more than 45 properties on the two city blocks directly east of Urban. The district does not have eminent domain rights and the cost to purchase these properties would be tremendous. The current assessed value of these properties is about 8 million dollars.
  • Vacant land at Najacht Road and Enterprise Drive: This land is further north than the proposed site at Mill and Najacht Roads and would cost more in road and sidewalk construction. Without sidewalks, additional transportation would be necessary.
  • Geele Ave. & Taylor Dr. (Field of Dreams): Not within the Urban attendance boundary. It would be a high added cost to replace/rebuild the athletic fields located on that parcel.
  • Property that was recently sold to Froedtert (across from Field of Dreams): Located further away from the current Urban site than the proposed site. Extensive wetlands on the property.



Why not build the new Urban on the donated North 15th Street property (former Polar Ware Company site) the District owns? This site was determined not to be a viable solution by conducting a thorough review of the property including geotechnical, environmental, and wetland delineation. Specifically, the 37.8 acres of property contain a large number of wetlands that make site planning difficult. The water table is extremely high and would require the school to be built higher than normal, which would add costs to the project, and the location of the school on the site, in proximity to a plastics/chemical company mixing facility, all combine to make this site not the best option.

FARNSWORTH MIDDLE SCHOOL

  • The plan would build a new Farnsworth Middle School and remodel the existing gym, fitness center, and two classrooms that were built in the 1990s. The majority of the structure would be demolished.
  • The new building would include:
    • Secure main entrance
    • Three floors of classrooms and labs
    • Cafeteria with a platform for performances
    • Library with space for student collaboration
    • Small-group instruction areas provide space for hands-on learning and technology access
    • Energy-efficient systems
    • Natural lighting
    • Outdoor synthetic turf area (similar to Jefferson Elementary) that can be used year-round for physical education, recess, practices, and potential community access regardless of weather conditions


URBAN MIDDLE SCHOOL

At the larger Mill and Najacht site, a new Urban Middle School would have:

  • Safe and secure entrances
  • Dedicated classrooms for music, language, business education, and STEM
  • A fitness center and expanded gym space
  • Better separation between vehicles and pedestrians
  • Classrooms and common spaces that allow for technology access and hands-on learning
  • Energy savings from more efficient building systems

No. Due to the projected cost of $12-$15 million for a basic auditorium, adding this cost to the referendum for either school is not feasible. That said, a mini-stage (with lights, sound, and audiovisual display) will be constructed in the school cafeteria (commons area), similar to the ones at North and South High Schools.

FARNSWORTH MIDDLE SCHOOL
The new construction and demolition of the old building will occur in several phases. The old school would continue operating as normal while the new building is being built. This project will certainly require thoughtful and proactive safety planning by the construction manager. Based on the numerous jobs these contractors have managed in similar situations, we feel their experiences and level of expertise will keep students and staff safe.

  • The current site plan calls for all car and bus traffic to enter and exit the school grounds from Najacht Road.
  • As part of the referendum cost, the district will work with the city to widen a portion of Najacht Road along the district’s property line to create left turn lanes into the bus and parent drop-off areas. This will facilitate easier access to the school and not limit traffic flow heading north on Najacht Road.
  • Pedestrians are able to access the school grounds via the sidewalks that are on both sides of the property coming from the south (North 21st Street to Najacht Road).
  • Mill Road does not have sidewalks or shoulders, so Urban students living on or near this road will continue to be provided the ability to ride the yellow school bus. Although the numbers can fluctuate yearly, there are currently only 7 middle school students residing in the neighborhoods west of Najacht Road to Hwy 42, which is the west attendance boundary for Urban. Thus, the bulk of the student traffic will not be coming to or leaving the school via Mill Road.
  • All SASD students are able to ride the Shoreline Metro (city buses) for free. District staff have already been working with representatives from Shoreline Metro regarding these bus routes to and from the new Urban, including retaining the existing stop at the current Urban site.
  • The city requires a comprehensive traffic impact analysis as part of any new construction of this type. The district contracted with an independent engineering firm, Traffic Analysis & Design, Inc., to conduct this study. View the Traffic Impact Study overview. The full report and 600 page appendix is posted under the Referendum Timeline. This report has been shared with the community and city. Any required recommendations will then need to be discussed and addressed. In addition, the SASD requested a- Crash & Safety Analysis to be completed. View the final report here.  
  • SASD has historically tried to address capital needs through the operating budget.
  • Major projects have been considered via capital referendum approximately every 8-10 years.
  • The next oldest group of buildings are several elementary schools built in the 1950s.
  • Looking at the SASD's future needs, the school district does not foresee a capital referendum in the next 8-12 years (assuming State funding remains stable).