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Madison High School In Need Of Updates

November 7, 2011, 10:07 PM by Nicole Winters

Madison High School In Need Of Updates
MADISON, SD - The Madison Central School District is once again asking voters to pass a measure that would allow them to renovate their high school. The district says the renovations are not a want but a major need, with not only learning obstacles but also safety concerns.

The vote failed last February, with many saying it was just too expensive. Now, they've trimmed costs and are hoping those who voted no will change their minds.

Several generations have walked through these doors.  Madison Central High School has been standing for more than four and a half decades.

"The first class graduated from this building in 1966," Superintendent Vince Schaefer said.

But what some may be surprised to see is the inside hasn't changed much since that first graduation.

"It is old.  It has not had any major renovations or remodeling done to it since then," Madison Central Principal Sharon Knowlton said.

The district asked voters last February to help make updates by funding renovations.  Voters said no. Now, the district is asking again and it's not just because the school needs a new look.

"Lot of structural problems, lots of infrastructure problems a lot of legal problems as far as accessibility," Knowlton said.

There are only two male and two female bathrooms in the school for all 350 students. And the narrow winding entrance is not wheelchair accessible.

"Our bathrooms are way too small," Knowlton said.

And it's not just the bathrooms that are not accessible for people with disabilities. The library, for example, is sunken down, an aesthetic appeal in the 60's. Now it’s a major problem for anyone who can't physically walk down steps.

"We've had kids graduate from Madison Central that have never been to the main floor of our library," Schaefer said.

Along with accessibility issues, classrooms are not 21st century learning capable. Science classes are not up to date. There are not nearly enough electrical outlets. In many classes, you'll see wires hanging from ceilings and makeshift power strips lining the floor.

"We're very proud of what we've done with technology in this 1965 building, but when you go in a classroom, you'll see the projector and cords hanging down from them because we don't have a way to pull them over," Knowlton said.

"Electrical is probably one of the big ones.  A classroom, the electrical needs in 1963 when this building was built didn't even have a TV in it at the time.  Now there's TV, projectors, 25 to 30 computers we need to supply power to it," Brad Franken said.

Brad Franken is the district's Director of Maintenance. He's had the challenge of meeting modern classroom needs with outdated measures.  While he's been able to make things work, there are some changes he can't do on his own including: electrical problems, plumbing problems, lighting issues and numerous fire code violations.

"Fire code has changed immensely and it does every year.  There's areas of this building when it was built it met code; in today's world does not," Franken said.

Those code violations could be a major safety concern. The school has no sprinkler system, classroom doors are not fire resistant and don't automatically close.  Also, the electrical closet is full of exposed live wires.

"It’s a huge challenge," Franken said.

The kiln in the art room is also against modern fire code. The burner used for pottery shouldn't be in an open classroom. The district is grandfathered in on many codes, but in some cases, they're forced to break the rules.

"When you walk in the building, it doesn't look bad.  It's once you get into the rooms, once you see the inability to teach with the surroundings that you understand the situation," Knowlton said.

The district hopes the community understands the situation. They've also dropped the price, in hopes that helps too.

"We paired down the dollar amount and the scope of the project from $16.9 million to $14.5 million," Schaefer said.

$8 million would come from capital outlay funds, so the community will actually only vote to fund just over $6 million. While it's still a lot of money, the upgrades can't wait much longer.

"This is a need.  I would say that our $2.5 million reduction from our first vote in February until now might have taken out some things that might have been a want.  We are at the point of a need," Schaefer said.

"We need to do something big, do it right, the first time, spend the money once and move on," Franken said.

Other updates would add an art room, band room, a Culinary Arts Program and a new gym.
Schaefer says the measure would cost homeowners in the city about one dollar and ten cents a week in taxes.

The vote will be held Tuesday, November 8 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.  Madison community members can vote at the city Armory.

© 2012 KELOLAND TV. All Rights Reserved.

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