Swallow School Referendum on November 6th Ballot Passed

The 1950's wing of Swallow School

The 1950’s wing of Swallow School

Bella Schuelke, Reporter

The School Board of Swallow School, a feeder school of Arrowhead High School, got approval for an $8.3M referendum for the general ballot on November 6th, 2018. The referendum involves a zero tax increase for district taxpayers.

On Wednesday, November 6th, the referendum passed with a 51.6 percent vote of 1,768 votes, according to article “Swallow School will get $8.3 million worth of renovations” by Jordyn Noennig of Journal Sentinel. 912 people voted yes to the proposed referendum, while 856 voted no.

School Board President John Stahl was quoted in the article: “We are happy that the majority of residents are in agreement with the proposed long-range master facilities plan…Passage of this referendum allows us to keep the needs of students first because major capital improvements will not have to take precedence over classroom supports and resources.”

Stahl says, “We can take care of vital improvements for teaching and learning and the most pressing maintenance needs while also being responsive to the community’s feedback by reducing the scope of the project to have no tax increase. The mill rate declined in the 2017 -2018 year, and we are pleased to know that it won’t be increasing because of this project.”

The reason for the zero tax increase involves Swallow’s last referendum. Since it was approved in 2004, Swallow has been making payments on the debt, “similar to a home mortgage.”

The referendum will result in a debt of $8.3 million, which is equal to the payments on the old debt, resulting in the zero tax increase.

A Referendum Fact Sheet, found on Swallow School’s homepage, states, “While the referendum play is a reduced version of the surveyed plan, it includes the most vital improvements for teaching and learning and the most pressing maintenance needs while also being responsive to the community’s feedback to have no tax increase. The referendum plan still creates the educational spaces the staff, students, and community need to improve programmatic offerings and instructional experiences to build on the success past students have been achieving for generations.”

The Fact Sheet mentions the goals for the referendum, including “providing staffing levels the Swallow community is accustomed to” renovating the school’s old rooms, and increasing community engagement.

A list of 12 expected outcomes can be found on the Fact Sheet, improve a student’s educational experience or the safety of students and staff at school.

The improved safety features planned are described on the Swallow School website: “This plan creates a fully accessible (ADA) building with improved safety and security features. Additional doors will allow for portions of the building to be separately secured as well as eliminating unnecessary exterior entrance points within the older portions of the building.”

The school plans to do it’s best to preserve some of the historic parts of the schools. Stahl says, “There comes a time when you have to weight the benefits of replacing the aging sections of the school versus continuing to put money into sections that will only need expensive continuous improvements over the lifespan of the facility. The public expressed concern over losing the history of the older sections of the building but didn’t want to place the financial burden on the school for its upkeep. We are working with the architect to ensure portions of the existing building, such as the iconic bell, can be repurposed into the design of the replacement portion of the building.”

For any further questions about the referendum, the school’s website suggests contacting Swallow’s Superintendent Dr. Melissa Thomson at 262-367-2000 x108 or via email at [email protected]