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A proposal to build a new high school and spend millions renovating other school buildings was turned down in January by the Chippewa Falls School Board, in large part due to the objections from district residents.

Those same residents will have several chances over the next two weeks to meet with Superintendent Dr. Heidi Eliopoulos and learn about the state of the eight school buildings that house the 5,100 students in grades 4K-12.

Eliopoulos has scheduled a dozen community information sessions — the first two are Monday, March 28 — designed to inform residents of the district’s needs as they relate to its facilities. In all, seven sessions are scheduled for next week, and another five for the week of April 4 (see a separate story for all of the dates and locations).

The superintendent and School Board members got a first-hand look at all of the buildings earlier this month through guided tours with Randy Knowlton, the district’s building and grounds director, the building principals and others. The board has also combed through the facilities audit to better inform themselves of deficiencies that exist, along with recommendations from the architectural firm that undertook the 2015 facilities study.

The dozen upcoming informational sessions amount to phase 2 of the board’s plan in tackling the facilities project, following its 6-1 denial in January of the $167 million proposal recommended by a 35-member Facilities Study Committee.

The committee’s school building recommendation included $92 million for a new high school, shifted middle school students to the present high school, moved grade 4-5 students into the middle school building and closed two elementary schools, most likely Hillcrest and Stillson.

With little support among the public or the board for that proposal, the School Board decided Feb. 18 to take up the matter itself, and get plenty of feedback from the public throughout the process.

The 12 community sessions beginning Monday are aimed at bringing the public up to speed on the status of all of the district buildings. Following those meetings, the district will begin seeking input from district residents.

That process will begin with a community survey related to facilities. Information on that survey will be included in the most recent issue of “The Cardinal Line,” the district’s quarterly newsletter that goes out to families within the district, and will be publicized in the Herald as well.

The entire process, including public surveys and narrowing of options along the way, is scheduled to wrap up prior to September, which would allow the board to place a referendum on the November ballot should that be what it chooses.

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