Unofficial results in Wisconsin’s April 7 primary election were finalized shortly after 10 p.m. April 13. The results were delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and left the Osceola School District’s referendum questions in limbo for nearly a week.
“There were lots of trials and tribulations at the state level as to whether or not the election would continue,” said Osceola superintendent Mark Luebker. “So we just rolled with the tide and waited patiently to get our results.”
Once the count was finalized, Luebker and the district breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Both questions in the Osceola School District referendum passed, with yes votes outweighing no votes by nearly 1,000 in each case.
“Obviously we were extremely elated with the results and the overwhelming support from our community,” Luebker said. “Especially during such a trying time.”
Question one will ensure $1 million each year for two years to the district to be used for operational purposes. Around 42 percent of that funding per year will go to educational programming and curriculum, 46 percent would help fund staffing needs to maintain current class sizes and hire additional custodial staff. The remaining $120,000 will be used in the transportation department to purchase one new bus and maintain the current fleet.
Question two passed a $10 million loan for facility needs at the high school, middle school and intermediate school. It will focus on improving safety, security and energy efficiency at each school.
Now that this money is a reality, the district is prepping to begin some of these improvement projects, which will take place over the course of the next two summers. Work may begin sooner than expected however, if the schools remain empty as part of the statewide shutdown due to COVID-19.
“We’re still waiting to hear from Gov. Evers regarding any additional extended closures,” Luebker said. “And that will determine our schedule.”
Bob Schmidt, the director of building and grounds for the district, said he’s been preparing some of these projects in anticipation that the referendum would be successful.
“I had a positive attitude that the referendum was going to pass and when school closed I had some extra time to start organizing projects,” he said. “So I’m going to get a jump on as many projects as I can.
Schmidt has broken the projects down into two phases. The first phase would take place this year and phase two would round out the remainder of the work in the summer of 2021. The first items on the agenda in phase one are improvements to the schools’ safety and security.
“That’s number one is to keep our students safe and secure,” he said.
This includes installing secure entrances at each location, as well as upgrading the existing security camera system. Schmidt also plans on replacing fire alarm panels at the high school and middle school.
Re-plastering the inside of the swimming pool and purchasing new covers is also a priority over the summer.
Larger projects include replacing carpet and repairing the roof at each location. Schmidt said these projects would likely be put on hold for the time being, depending on the availability of area contractors.
“There’s no rush to get these done, it isn’t like we have to get them done by August,” he said. “We want to be responsible with the money.”