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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How to Renovate Madison HS, Postpone the New Gym, and Save Millions of Tax Dollars

To the members of the Madison Central School District Board and Administration:

The Madison Central School District is proposing a $16 million plan to build a new gym and renovate the high school. As a graduate and former employee of Madison High School, I have seen first hand deficiencies in the high school that have warranted repair and upgrade since the 1980s. The $7.4 million proposed for high school renovation will clearly improve the educational environment of our high school.

The new gym portion of this plan, a significant portion of the $8.64 million proposed for new construction, is being portrayed by the district as an educational upgrade to provide space for physical education classes. The district also contends that the new gym will provide necessary auxiliary educational space during the construction period while other classroom space is under renovation.

I am concerned that the district is about to spend millions of dollars on a new gym that is not needed for educational purposes and that might not even be needed as backup classroom space during the high school renovation. If we can save the taxpayers of this district those millions of dollars, we should.

Here's how:
  1. Assume the bond issue will pass next year and that construction can begin in 2012.
  2. Schedule all physical education classes for high school and middle school for the first semester of academic year 2011–2012. Schedule the classroom health component of that requirement for the second semester, Spring 2012.
  3. Schedule all AY 2012–2013 health classes for first semester, Fall 2012. Schedule all AY 2012–2013 P.E. classes for second semester, Spring 2013.
  4. Begin renovation in January, 2012. Move classes from the under-renovation portions of the high school to available classrooms and the middle school gym, which will have no P.E. classes going on, since all the kids will be in health class.
  5. Enlist students in "school spirit" activities, moving desks, books, and other classroom materials to and from temporary classroom areas. (We did something like this at Montrose when we moved into our new high school building in 2002. Lots of fun... and you're not paying movers or builders to move stuff.)
  6. Eliminate the state basketball tournament "spring break" holidays, extend the school day, start AY 2011–2012 early, and/or conduct school on Saturdays in Spring 2012 to allow the district to release students for summer break early (May 15? May 10?).
  7. With the school cleared of students early, turn construction crews loose on the entire facility.
  8. Set this firm deadline with the contractor: 80% of high school classroom space must be student-ready by September 15, 2012. Impose big penalties for not meeting this deadline.
  9. Start the school year late, in September 2012 to allow construction crews more time to work without interruption. Missed academic time can be made up by eliminating basketball holidays, extending school days, extending school days, ending this school year late (June 1?), and/or holding school on Saturdays.
  10. Contractors finish renovation and follow-up work by December 31, 2012.
  11. Post-construction, maintain a P.E./health rotation across grades to alleviate need for extra gym space during the school day. (Send me your current schedule, time and facility requirements, and student numbers by grade, and I can spreadsheet a schedule for you by suppertime.) Continue to partner with DSU and community and use other available spaces (gymnastics practice center) to use alternative practice spaces for extracurriculars.
Renovating the building while students are in class may sound radical, but we've done it before. Convicts from Governor Janklow's penitentiary crew wired my Madison High School classroom for Internet* during school hours, while I was teaching grammar, composition, and speech. (If you can teach speech with inmates operating power tools in your vicinity, you can teach anything.)

Changing the school schedule during the construction year may cause some grief. I'm not particularly fond of sending kids to school on Saturday, but with my debate history, I probably wouldn't notice. Good debate coaches are working most Saturdays from November to March anyway, so I wouldn't notice much difference. Besides, it's just for a few months.

This plan can surely use some tweaking from the architect and the building committee. But the general idea is sound: we can renovate the high school and maintain educational opportunities without building a new gym. It will require some inconvenience and sacrifice... but no more than the unnecessary sacrifice of millions of taxpayer dollars and future borrowing/spending capacity your current plan demands.

The high school needs renovation now. The new gym can wait.

As always, I welcome your public comments and consideration of this plan.

Cory Allen Heidelberger
Madison HS 1989
Current Taxpayer
Potential MHS Bulldog Parent

*By the way, Governor Janklow was able to Web-wire South Dakota's K-12 system for 85% less than the original cost projection.


  1. I just called the High School and going to go for the tour in about thirty minutes! If your a concerned tax payer, resident, business person I think you should participate as much as possible in such of a huge decision.

  2. The tour is an excellent idea as you'll get to see top to bottom, the areas that need upgrading.

    One thing that was pointed out to me today is that the High School Gym is going to be reformatted as classrooms for band, chorus and other uses, so we'll only have the undersized Middle School gym to serve both the HS and MS physical education classes and also serve as our competition center.

  3. I look forward to hearing details of the tour, Casey!

    Rod, how many PE sections are there? How many students? As I said, hand me those numbers, I can make it work. (I checked Milne's website, but there's no schedule there, just powerlifting info, then the 9-12 PE standards at the bottom.)

  4. Michael Black10/19/2010 10:33 PM

    Rod, I thought the state eliminated the mandate for HS phys ed.

  5. Nope, Michael: HS phys ed req still there. http://doe.sd.gov/octe/gradrequirements.asp

    But we could reduce the need for phys ed classes by letting kids get PE credit for participation in sports. As long as the kids are active, it doesn't matter if they're playing dodgeball with Tom Milne during the school day or running for Bob Cordts afterwards.

  6. I asked what the main purpose of the gym would be for and her flat out answer was "To benefit my PE classes mostly". I about fell on my ass lets just say. Later on to hear the brainwashing speach of "no one has not left here being excited for the renovation project". I looked around and all I saw was teachers- How could they not be excited? Its benefiting them at work. A call came in, and I left right when they started the walk through on the building.

    Also, has anyone seen that chart that they paid a lot of money through? They have so many colors of the rainbow I couldn't even understand what is what and where. I just knew where the gym was. ha.

    I will go on the tour here shortly when Leadership Madison takes it.

  7. Thanks for the effort, Casey! Maybe we can catch the next tour together. :-)

    They are doggedly pursuing their propaganda. Fascinating, the power of a marketing mindset.


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