The Lac du Flambeau School Board has authorized district administrator Larry Ouimette to begin looking into the possibility of an expansion resulting in up to six new classrooms.
The action comes nearly a year after the Minocqua-Hazelhurst-Lake Tomahawk Board of Education gave the green light to an expansion that resulted in additional classroom and storage space for MHLT.
The majority of that project was completed before the 2017-18 school year began.
LdF district administrator Larry Ouimette, in explaining what he said is a need for the expansion at the school, mentioned the MHLT project.
"We have continuing numbers coming in from our lower grade levels," he said. "Our smaller classes are kind of leaving us now and going on to the high school."
Ouimette said most classes are at 50 or more students with some at 60 or more.
"Plus with all the special needs and support staff that we have, we would like to look at providing some additional space for classrooms for special support programs," he said. "What I'd like to do is just have an opportunity to work with the buildings and grounds committee on the possibility of adding up to six classrooms in the building at different locations."
Ouimette also mentioned the possibility of a fitness room added onto the gymnasium as well as additional storage for equipment used by building and grounds personnel.
He used as a comparison the MHLT project, its primary purpose to add five classrooms, at he said was a cost of $1.2 million.
The MHLT project also included a multi-purpose room, which Ouimette said added another $900,000 to that project's cost.
"So, that kind of gives you an idea of the ballpark of cost of something like that," he said. "I'm not sure where we would end up and it's not necessarily my priority to add on to the gym area but I do think we do need additional classroom space."
Ouimette said having some extra storage space designated for fitness equipment would get that equipment off the stage in the gymnasium and provide additional space for other activities.
He said again what he was looking for was authorization from the school board to work with the building and grounds committee, develop some ideas and bring them back to the board.
Board president Mike Zimmerman, Sr., said he'd also like to see a day care put in.
"So, we need to remodel if we went down by the old Head Start section and look into that as well," he said.
"To run a day care?" board member Gary Smith asked.
"For our staff," Zimmerman said. "And see what all that entails. I know we would need a license but we do have food, we do have the nurses. We've got to find out what staff has ... what age group we're talking about."
He said what could be looked into as well is students in sixth and seventh grade as babysitters.
"We could utilize some of our own kids," Zimmerman said. "Utilize high school kids as well."
"As long as they're certified," board member Melissa Doud said.
"Not to go into competition with anything the Tribe has," Zimmerman said. "Just for our own staff here. I think that would be appreciated by our teaching staff."
"Are we talking about building additional space?" Doud asked.
"He's talking about six classrooms," Zimmerman said, referring to Ouimette. "I'm talking about eight. The day care would be where the old Head Start used to be. That could be remodeled for the day care."
Ouimette, answering Doud's question, said he and the building and grounds committee would "look at places where it would make sense to add on to the building."
Zimmerman later said the school was built for 500 students and when it opened, the student population was 380.
"Now, we exceed that," he said. "Now, he's talking six (classrooms) ... let's look towards the future here because you wait four more years, it's gonna cost us that much more again."
As one last item for the discussion, Ouimette said he whatever is done, he'd like to see it down within the district's fund balance.
"So, we would not be asking for additional money from the taxpayers," he said.
"Oh, make sure The Lakeland Times gets this right," Zimmerman, who earlier in the meeting accused the newspaper of "fake news" in an article about the school's new calendar, said. "It'll be our own money."
"And I want to make sure it goes out for proper bid," Doud said.
"Obviously, we're going to be fiscally responsible," Smith said. "We have a nice fund balance but that's because we run the school correct financially."
Ouimette said the healthy fund balance essentially translates to a lower interest rate.
As for the addition of classrooms itself, Doud said she felt it would be appreciated by everybody.
"Teachers, students," she said. "We have to make sure everything is to code ... we can only have so many per classroom, whatever that may be."
Zimmerman said the 15 students to one teacher was established when the current facility was built and became operational.
"I want to maintain that," he said.
Brian Jopek may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.