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Your Schools: Action Team #2 begins crafting school facilities' strategic plans

This is American Education Week, a national event that acknowledges the important role of public education in our country.

This year's theme, "Great Public Schools: A Basic Right and Our Responsibility," reminds me of how lucky I am to live in a community like River Falls that does truly value education, be it public, private, K-12 or post-secondary. It also reminds me to never lose sight of the commitment made by this community in providing the necessary tools and facilities for the education of its young people.

A couple of weeks ago, I sat with a large group of River Falls' citizens as they talked about our school district's facilities. In fact, I even took a bus ride with them to tour school facilities in New Richmond for several hours one evening.

This group is Action Team #2, and it is made up of interested citizens and a few staff members with the task of crafting action steps for the strategic plan's strategy that reads, "We will address immediate facility needs of the district and develop a process to constantly ensure that our facilities will support the strategic plan."

I was really impressed with the group's thoughtful, long-term approach to analyzing our district's school buildings and grounds, with the purpose of maintaining the investment this community has made for many years to come.

While I'm not officially a member of the committee, I've made it a priority to be aware of the work it's doing, since facilities dramatically affect attainment of our district's mission and student achievement.

The Action Team's work began in September and will continue through December in order to present recommendations, first to the Strategic Planning Team in January, and ultimately to the school board in February.

The committee has reviewed past architectural studies the district had received in 2004 and 2006. Committee members analyzed a demographic study by a professional demographer completed in October to learn what is projected for school district growth and student enrollments for the next 10-15 years.

They reviewed an energy consumption study completed last winter by an independent energy auditor to find better ways to save energy and help the district be wise stewards of the environment. They analyzed a long listing of deferred maintenance projects for all buildings in the district, from roofs to flooring, boilers to windows, air quality to traffic flow, and safety and security measures to protect all of our children and other users of the district facilities.

And, the Action Team is critically discussing longstanding issues of operating our two oldest buildings, Greenwood Elementary School and the River Falls Academy.

In many ways, this Action Team's work is a culmination of both past facility studies and current analysis of how effectively, efficiently and educationally-sound our district facilities are operating.

I'm not certain what the committee will recommend when it's all said and done, but I can assure taxpayers that every possible facility issue is being analyzed in depth for the most cost-effective solutions in order to keep our buildings used for education for many, many years to come.

Former principal of Meyer Middle School Greg Danke was known for giving his advice to kids: "Do the right thing!" Likewise, the facilities Action Planning Team is working to do the right thing for the long-term investment in district facilities that provides quality educational spaces for generations to come.