Wagner Education Building

The task force presented its findings to the Litchfield School Board at its most recent meeting May 28.

As Litchfield Public Schools prepares for a fall referendum, a task force presented recommendations for facility and educational needs during the May 28 school board meeting.

District facility task force members Hannah Hanson, Chris Beach and Vanessa Lopez, and ICS Consultant Ryan Hoffman spoke to the board, suggesting the levy should focus on addressing educational and space needs, safety and security, physical condition and infrastructure of district buildings, collaborative learning and co-curricular activities, and community. After meeting seven times over three months, the task force reviewed information to help establish the district’s needs. The task force prioritized the needs in order of importance, stating it was critical to put education first, followed by space needs.

The task force identified needs and looked at the drivers behind those, Beach said.

“We all came in with separate needs, but the drivers brought us together,” he said.

The task force recommended that Lake Ripley Elementary School should be prioritized. Beach said after touring the district facilities and seeing other districts’ schools, it is apparent Lake Ripley School is cramped and outdated. The district should also look at ensuring safety and security of the existing space, task force members said, by looking at building access, parent drop-off and pick-up, and traffic flow at Lake Ripley School.

“We should optimize the existing space,” Beach said. “We have space that can be reconfigured.”

Deferred maintenance of buildings throughout the district should also be taken into consideration, Beach said, because maintenance staff has had to defer many things.

“We would not do this in our own homes,” Beach said. “We need to take care of our school district.”

The task force also recommended that the district look into building a more flexible learning space for the future needs of students. Education has changed, and there are a lot of spaces with specific needs in mind, Beach said.

“Different learning styles, special education, tech offerings at local high schools — we need to show our kids there are viable options to stay in the community,” he said.

Lopez said that some school, such as Hutchinson High School, are designed more like a community college.

“They don’t really have a library,” she said. “They don’t really need one anymore.”

As far as the district footing a wellness center goes, the task force felt it was the least of the district’s priorities. Lopez said the district has done its best to maintain its buildings with the resources it has available.

“When talking about needs, it’s very easy to see what is important,” Lopez said. “There’s a lot of things that need to be taken care of first. (There has been) no attention to the locker rooms. A pool isn’t going to educate our kids.”

Lopez stated that with the limited funds available to the district, if a wellness center were to actualize, there would need to be a partnership between the city, school district and local businesses.

For the levy to pass, the task force members said, the district should take its recommendations into consideration.

“We can’t be cheap,” Beach said. “We’ve seen cheap.”

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