Mike Richie, District Administrator
For the past 22 months, Tomorrow River Schools has invested significant time and energy to understand the educational and facility needs of our school and the direction our community wants to take regarding our school. You might be asking yourself how did the school district make the decision to put two referendum questions on the April 5, 2022, ballot. The process initially started several years ago when the school board and administration created a new strategic plan that identified facility improvements as a priority for the district.
In December of 2019, the district hired Hoffman Planning, Design & Construction—a firm from Appleton specializing in the planning of schools—to study facility needs and lead a process to evaluate those needs. The goal was to develop a master facility plan for the district to implement over time.
Hoffman completed a comprehensive physical facility analysis, facilitated staff and community listening sessions, analyzed the capacity and utilization, and measured educational adequacy of our school. Through this process, there were two needs that were consistently identified in every conversation: a focus on improving facilities for science and tech ed and a focus on safety and security.
During the creation of the master plan, the school board also recognized the importance of learning from our past facility projects. Our current school is a mix of building additions dating from 1955 through 2014, with the oldest parts of the building at the center of our current footprint. With the need to maximize past investments in our school by this community, the decision was made to stay on our existing site, but the current site has space limitations. The school board decided it was critical to improve the existing school and expand within the current footprint, which meant building up instead of out.
After the creation of a master plan addressing current and future needs, the school board asked for the community’s feedback through the recent community survey. The survey had great participation and provided clear direction that academic facilities are the most important need that you wanted the district to address. The school board responded by structuring the two referendum questions that the community will see on April 5th.
Reaching consensus has been critical throughout the planning process. Consensus is about cooperation and building a stronger community through “win-win” solutions desired by the majority. With the many needs of the district to consider, it was apparent from the beginning that it would be difficult to develop a facilities plan that could meet everyone's wants and visions. We realized 100 percent support is never possible. Therefore, it became clear that the best approach for the district was to prioritize needs in the most efficient way possible. This referendum addresses the most critical needs of the district while ensuring that Tomorrow River Schools remain the district of choice in the region for families, students and staff.
We look forward to two in-person, open-to-the public events regarding the referendum on Thursday, March 10 and Tuesday, March 22 at 6:30 p.m. in the school cafeteria. Our partners at Hoffman will lead the presentation and will welcome and encourage questions from the community. For more information about the Falcon STEAM referendum, please visit amherstfalconsteam.com.