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Study on St. Croix Meadows Dog Track Says Site Would be Excellent Location for New School

At its Oct. 11 meeting, the Hudson School District Board of Education heard the results of a feasibility study conducted by Hoffman LLC on the St. Croix Meadows Dog Track for use of the site as a secondary school.

A preliminary evaluation of the St. Croix Meadows Dog Track has found it to be very suitable for a new school.

The feasibility study was conducted by Hoffman LLC. Hoffman had for a secondary school location, but found that site to have a lack of land that could be developed.

Last week, the board had approved a referendum be brought to the public for purchase of the St. Croix Meadows Dog Track.

If the referendum passes, the board will offer $8.25 million for the location.

Mark Boehlke of Hoffman LLC was on hand to present the preliminary results of the feasibility study. He noted that "everything in this report is based off existing information."

The property is clearly large enough to handle the capacity and traffic that would come with a secondary school. Of the 126 acres on hand, the study estimates that 85-90 of those acres are usable.

Boehlke did point out that the site has some existing conditions that reduce the total land area that can be used, including steep wooded slopes on the east side, a pound in the southwest corner and some potential wetlands.

The dog track already has enough parking to handle the large flow of traffic associated with a secondary school, as Boehlke pointed out that he "calculated around 3,000 parking stalls at the site."

Boehlke also commented that the location is ideal. He noted that being that close to the city, and to still have "the infrastructure and road network to move in and out of the site presents a unique opportunity."

Superintendent Mary Bowen-Eggenbraaten agreed, adding that "one of the advantages this site has as well is that it has a buffer zone between where a school would be located and the neighborhoods around that site."

She also noted that their are a lot of opportunities on that property to have outdoor learning sites, which would contribute toward the district's goal of teaching environmental sustainability.

The study found no major structural damage to the main building. It also noted that development costs associated with earthwork, gas, water, sewer and other utilities would be below average because the site was previously developed.

"Not only are there public utilities to the site, but there is existing infrastructure on the site," Boehlke said. 

The report did identify some hurdles to the site. It found that the City of Hudson would have to rezone the property, since it is currently zoned for "general business."

Another hurdle would be costs associated with the demolition of some of the old buildings on site. Boehlke pointed out, however, that these issues are "not uncommon on most sites."

Also, with the district acquiring the property, the property would be tax exempt; it's currently a taxable property in Hudson.

Board of Education President Barbara Van Loenen commented "this particular property is possibly the only property in the area that met our criteria."

The criteria the board had set was that the property be in the city with access to utilities, that it was easily accessible, and that it would be big enough to handle a secondary school.

The preliminary feasibility study did not address specific costs associated with the location, nor did it assess specific repairs or remodeling needs for the main building on site.

Boehlke added that additional studies should be done to confirm their findings.

The district believes it needs a new secondary school because its middle and high school are very crowded.

The high school has a capacity of 1,680, this year its enrollment sits at 1,635. The middle school, meanwhile, is already over capacity, with a capacity of 1,125 and a total student body of 1,294.

Bowen-Eggenbraaten had commented before the presentation that the district had a "very significant growth of 53 students at the middle school."

Enrollment at the middle school increased 4 percent over last year.

If the referendum is approved, property taxes on a $200,000 home in Hudson would go up between $10 and $20 annually for either 10 or 20 years.

The Board of Education will set a date for the referendum to purchase the St. Croix Meadows Dog Track at its next meeting on Nov. 8. The referendum will take place either in February or April.

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Other Board of Education news

  • Recognized the Hudson Area Backpack Program for its outstanding success.
  • Recognized Hudson teacher Veronica Ellingson for receiving the NEA Foundation Award.
  • Recognized Hudson High School gym teacher Craig Jilek for being inducted into the UW-Eau Claire Athletic Hall of Fame.
  • Heard the district's 2011-12 SMART Goals.
  • Approved revisal of policy #5136, for student use of electronic communication devices.
  • Heard an update from Superintendent Mary Bowen-Eggenbraaten on the 2011-12 district enrollment.
  • Approved payment of expenditure's totalling $1,890,390.19.
Hudson Resident October 14, 2011 at 12:35 PM
Pardon me. I meant to say "higher" classes sizes.
Shannon October 14, 2011 at 01:39 PM
Please cite your information for the "better test scores than Hudson". My information on public schools shows just the opposite. I can personally speak to the class sizes at the Middle School and elementary schools in Hudson. The elementary school my children attend has five first grade classrooms this year. The wave of students is coming. Our School Board wants to make sure that we get a handle on the situation before things get worse. You say, "Funny how the kids never say one word about overcrowding . . ." It's funny how I always hear about "cart" teachers who have no classroom and how crowded it is at the Middle School from my child who attends school there. How many students did you interview about the overcrowding? Something tells me the answer is none. This information on student enrollment is not at all difficult to find. http://dpi.wi.gov/lbstat/pubdata2.html The School Board is doing the job that the voters elected them to do. This is not a giant conspiracy to convince the voters in Hudson that we need more schools. Money spent to provide quality education is money well spent. I personally know one member of the School Board. If you have a better plan, I can make sure that it gets in front of the Board.
Dan BV October 14, 2011 at 02:14 PM
I think the school board figured that if they proposed buying a property with kennels, the vocal opposition would see that the board is trying to meet the naysayers half-way on a vision for what Hudson should have for schools. But the naysayers are flip-floppy bunch, aren't they?
Hudson Resident October 14, 2011 at 02:33 PM
Dan, you forgot to mention cynic as well. Come on get it right if you're going to demonize people would you? It's cynics and naysayers okay?
Hudson Resident October 14, 2011 at 02:38 PM
Shannon, you don't have to look very far for better test scores and higher class sizes. Check on Stillwater and get back to the class okay?
Hudson Resident October 14, 2011 at 03:08 PM
And Shannon, you never told us how that $20 a year was going to provide additional space for the children. The cost of this property is just a drop in the bucket compared to the additional operating expenses that will be necessary to revamp the existing property, build another school and provide the necessary staffing. I do love the "it's only $20 a year" argument though....
Shannon October 14, 2011 at 03:11 PM
Thank you, Hudson Resident, I did check out the test scores online. I compared five public Stillwater elementary schools whose MCA test scores yielded 93% proficiency in math and 85% in reading (these were the highest scores of the five schools). I compared the five public Hudson elementary schools whose WKCE test scores yielded 94% in math and 97% in reading (again, the highest scores from the five schools). It should be noted that all five elementary schools in both Stillwater and Hudson were very close in test scores and are all very good schools based on these scores. Now, granted, the MCA test scores were for third grade in Minnesota and the WKCE test scores were for fourth grade in Wisconsin. I am working on the information on higher class sizes and will get "back to the class." If you do not agree with investing in education, you need to admit that. Pointing fingers does nothing for your argument. Decide what you believe in and stand by your beliefs.
Hudson Resident October 14, 2011 at 03:21 PM
Keep looking Shannon and remember that the Wisconsin testing parameters have been dumbed down in the past five years so that more children test "proficient", which means that your analysis is flawed from the start. Check the ACT scores. That is probably a little better, although not all of the students take these scores. You keep going to bat for Mary and company though. I've got to get some work down today to pay for my taxes. Chances are I won't keep prodding you though because this argument will play out on a much bigger stage. If I was a gambling person I would say that the school board will lose this debate and have to provide additional space, if it is indeed required, in a much more financially reasonable way. Have a great rest of the day!
Dan BV October 14, 2011 at 03:29 PM
Thanks, bud - I'm on it! Though cynics and naysayers pretty much demonize themselves. Telltale sign: not being able to take a joke.
mainstreet October 14, 2011 at 03:36 PM
Why can't they just expand the existing high school to the south? There is nothing there but a field.
Dan BV October 14, 2011 at 04:18 PM
There is an actual answer to this. Because there needs to be additional parking lot for additional people with additional cars on the site, required drainage ponds, etc. the current property is functionally at its maximum "build-up". That and with all due respect, that not just "a field" - it is a very active area for the PhyEd program, the sports program, etc. This question was answered years ago.
mainstreet October 14, 2011 at 04:34 PM
Aside the phys ed stuff - which can be done inside- the parking shouldn't be a problem. Just quit letting the kids drive to school unless they have a reason to (jobs,etc) and make them ride the buses that we are already paying for and are running around empty.
Dan BV October 14, 2011 at 06:07 PM
Oo! Oo! Don't say it! I know what's next... and if we stop putting flouride in the water...
Shannon October 14, 2011 at 06:50 PM
I looked up the average SAT and ACT scores by state. There are myriad websites for this information. I chose the one with the greatest difference in test scores here: http://www.publicagenda.org/charts/state-state-sat-and-act-scores. According to their information for 2010, Minnesota's reading SAT score was 594 compared to Wisconsin's 595. Minnesota's average mat SAT score was 607 compared to Wisconsin's 604. Minnesota's average writing SAT score was 580 compared to Wisconsin's 579. The average ACT composite score for Minnesota was 22.9. For Wisconsin it was 22.1. I am fascinated by your claim the the WKCE testing parameters have been "dumbed down" and would appreciate any supporting information you could give me on that. You have inspired me to suggest that the School Board make a stronger case about the schools being overcrowded. Anyone who doesn't believe this should try walking around the Middle School at 7:25 am and then observe class sizes and "cart" teachers who have no classroom. They should observe art class being taught in a locker room in an elementary school. And then they should be shown data about the increase in student population past, present and the future projections. The Hudson School District has levied taxpayers under the limit allowed by the state for the past 8 years - $9 million under the limit last year - one of the lowest levies in the state based on the size of the district. Our School Board is doing the right thing here.
Shannon October 14, 2011 at 06:57 PM
With all due respect for your opinion my friend, the buses that my children ride on are near capacity. The middle schoolers are combined with the high schoolers, and I believe that St. Pat's and Trinity also make use of the buses - someone please correct me if I am wrong. I assure you that they aren't running around empty unless they have already dropped the kids off at school. It would make sense to have most kids ride the bus; however, what do you do with an eighteen-year-old who has a job and has bought his own car and pays for its upkeep, license and insurance? As it is, the parking spills over into St. Pat's parking lot across Vine Street.
mainstreet October 14, 2011 at 07:15 PM
Year round school would be another fine alternative. Its used a lot in other states. Employee benefits are already being paid for as a year long thing. Only added expenses would be some salaries and operating expenses. Presto 25% more space!
Shannon October 14, 2011 at 07:31 PM
So, the type of year round school you are talking about would be students still getting three months off during the year, but staggering those three months? Interesting alternative. I'm curious as to how this has been implemented in other states. I'm all for year round school, but it makes more sense to me to have the same 180 days of instruction with a month and a half off for summer and three weeks off a couple times during the school year. I think students would benefit from a shorter time off in the summer. I'm sure those in the tourist industry would disagree with me.
mainstreet October 14, 2011 at 07:42 PM
I would bet its the tourism thing that prevents year round personally, you know lobbyists and such. My sisters kids in NC had year round with the 3 months off staggered. Both of her kids had it for their entire schooling.
Hudson Resident October 14, 2011 at 08:04 PM
Shannon, I still haven't heard how $20 a year is going to solve any perceived space issues. You've been busy looking up all sorts of stuff today but that seemed to have escaped your efforts. Please advise....
Shannon October 14, 2011 at 08:29 PM
The article states that property taxes would go up $10-20/year on a $200,000 home if the referendum is approved. According to you, we should be out interviewing children to see if they complain about overcrowding at their schools, and comparing test scores and enrollment data before we prepare for the future of the Hudson School District. You have no ideas, no plans, no original thoughts, and you don't understand what "at capacity" means. You throw out contrived statements with no basis in fact. I would have much more respect for you if you would simply admit that: 1) You don't have children that are enrolled in the Hudson School District and you don't want to pay higher taxes of any amount for education; 2) Your children are grown and already have their education and "forget" the rest of us because you don't want to pay toward our children's education. I would even respect you if you would simply say that you don't want money going toward education, or that you disagree with this plan but you think (insert an original intelligent thought here) would be something else for the School Board to consider. Vote yes or vote no on this referendum, but have your thought process based in facts.
Hudson Resident October 14, 2011 at 08:41 PM
And still no answer because that $20 is just for the land. Give some thought to how much the entire cost will be before you jump on board. The capacity of our schools is a contrived number that for all intent and purposed is meaningless. There are many factors that effect capacity and you're just drinking the koolaid. And yes I do have kids in the district, thanks for asking. All done now....
Shannon October 14, 2011 at 08:48 PM
Gee do you think they will have projections for the numbers before it goes to a referendum? Not that you would believe a word of it. You would complain if they did and complain if they didn't. "The capacity of our schools is a contrived number that for all intent and purposed (sic) is meaningless." I think that "logic" explains Hudson Resident in a nutshell. If you aren't part of the solution, you are part of the problem.
Shannon October 14, 2011 at 08:50 PM
It would be a pain to have two (or more) kids on different schedules and try to plan a family vacation, but obviously people make it work somehow. The tourism industry is pretty big in these parts. I'm not sure it would be a popular idea around here.
Hudson Resident October 15, 2011 at 12:55 AM
Shannon, any capacity figure that is put forth by the school board is not set in stone. There are any number of factors that influence this figure. First of all how is maximum class size derived? The maximum class sizes currently used by the school board were plucked out of thin air several years ago. There is no rhyme or reason as to the educational effectiveness of these class sizes. There are no studies that prove that these class size ranges provide the best education for the child or the most value for the tax payer. If you increase the class size maximum at the high school by just 2 kids per class then you have increased the "maximum capacity" by 150 students or so. Other factors include classroom usage and curriculum. Keep drinking the koolaid put forth by your friends on the school board. As for me, I'll continue to question them every step of the way. That is my civic duty and I take it very seriously. How's that for "logic"?
Hudsoner October 15, 2011 at 03:03 AM
I know quite a few teachers who would prefer "year round school". Students tend to forget so much information during the long summer vacations that a good chunk of classroom time after the vacations need to be used for repeating the learning content. Year round school is used in all European countries I know (and it know a lot of them).
Hudsoner October 15, 2011 at 03:08 AM
I know that some high school classrooms house 30 or more kids. If you know anything about teaching adolescents, you know that the ideal class size should be around 16 - 18 students.
Hudsoner October 15, 2011 at 03:13 AM
You really seem not to have any clue about education. There is a "million" of studies around that very accurately tell you, what the "ideal" class size is. Here is only one example about class size (and if you follow the quoted links in that paper, you will have a lot to read! http://www2.ed.gov/offices/OESE/ClassSize/myths.html
Hudson Resident October 15, 2011 at 11:53 AM
Sorry Hudsoner, but not having a clue is thinking that an extra $20 a year in taxes is going to provide land, a building, and staffing. THAT is not having a clue. This referendum will go down in flames. You're kidding yourself if you think otherwise.
Shannon October 15, 2011 at 12:33 PM
Not having a clue is making up things like Stillwater having higher test scores than Hudson to try and make a point. There are plenty of studies on maximum class size, but you only like to believe in the make-believe. If you took your civic duty seriously, you would make an effort and put forth original ideas. The referendum will pass and I will smile and think of you when it does.
Hudson Resident October 16, 2011 at 02:29 PM
I apologize profusely Shannon. I should have realized that you have a much better understanding of the school district electorate than I do. And you have an excellent track record with predicting elections as well. After all, didn't you think that Shelly Moore was going to defeat Sheila Harsdorf in the recall election? How did that one turn out for you?

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