MALLARD?- The topic of closing a school building is never popular in any size community - let alone a smaller rural town. But for patrons of the West Bend-Mallard Community School District, the possibility of the closure of the school building on the southeast corner of the community is coming to a head with a pair of public hearings on the possibility.
For the past few months, the West Bend Mallard School Board has been looking into ways of cutting operating costs for the district, and among those possible cuts have been talks about closing the district's Middle School facility in Mallard
With discussions on the possibility dating back to the latter part of 2013, the West Bend-Mallard School Board took a more prolonged look at the possibility during a work session held following its Dec. 19 board meeting in West Bend.
WBM?Superintendent Amanda Schmidt answered questions posed by board members during the session, which included discussions on financial issues and potential savings by closing the building. Another topic of discussion was capacity of the lunchroom at West Bend to handle the additional students from Mallard.
Building occupancy issues, as well as compliance with fire codes were also discussed during the work session, as well as input from district staff members on closing the building.
As part of the discussions, the district's administrative team has prepared possible floor plans for combining both buildings at the West Bend location, as well as continuing to use the gymnasium facilities of the Mallard building for various activities.
According to Schmidt, the district's administrators feel it is feasible to combine the entire district's student population in one building. In doing so, there are specific guidelines set by the state Department of Education in regards to having younger students entering and exiting a building separately from the older students, and how the younger students can move throughout the building.
To meet those guidelines, High School Principal Paul Peppmeier noted that high school students would not have to be near the younger students during the day except in passing for one or two class periods out of the day. Through scheduling, students would be able to be separated throughout the building in age groups.
Another concern, for food service operations to be able to handle the additional students, has been addressed, with Food Service Director Jackie Kampen looking into the possibility and reporting that accommodating the entire district is feasible with three lunch periods. Other related issues, such as seating capacity, will need to be addressed and a plan implemented by staff and administration.
"The next step would be to set up a public hearing and share the information that has been gathered thus far with the public,"?noted Superintendent Schmidt.
After a brief discussion, the board agreed to set up two public hearings, one in Mallard and one in West Bend, to present the information to the district's patrons and answer questions from the patrons.
The first public hearing has been set for Thursday, Jan. 9 at 7:00 p.m. in the Mallard school gymnasium, and the second meeting will be held on Monday, Jan. 13, at 7:00 PM, in the West Bend school gym. These meetings are open to the public and all patrons of the West Bend-Mallard Community School District are encouraged to attend.