Oak Creek-Franklin Joint School District

Frequently Asked Questions

Updated November 1, 2018

1. Why is there a school referendum?

To achieve our vision of “building successful futures together” we must provide clean, orderly, safe, cost-effective, and instructionally supportive school environments contributing to our mission of educating every child, every day to meet the intellectual, physical, and emotional demands of the 21st century. The 10 Year Facility Study completed in May 2018 provided a comprehensive analysis taking into consideration enrollments, capacities, the educational framework, vision, and cost.  Some of the projects identified as priority needs can be managed within existing budget capacity over the next few years, others cannot. Therefore after extensive community input, the School Board selected the highest priority projects and decided on August 13, 2018, to ask the community if they would support these improvements to our schools.

2. How do the facility improvements outlined in the referendum benefit our schools, our children's education, and our community?

  1. Providing students with greater learning opportunities

  2. Improving the safety and security of our schools

  3. Modernizing older schools’ physical environments to bring all schools to equitable standards - with each other and our key competitors.

  4. Significantly catching up on the backlog of deferred maintenance projects

  5. Assuring property values by maintaining a high-quality school system

3. What is the cost in my taxes to achieve the benefits outlined above?

If the referendum were approved by the community this would equal an estimated annual tax increase of $118 per year (or $9.81 per month) on a $225,000 home.  To figure out the estimated cost for your home, you may multiply $0.52 per each $1000 of assessed value.

4. Why do elementary schools need to separate indoor physical education spaces (gymnasium) and the cafeteria?

WATCH:  Why Elementary Schools Need a Gymnasium 

First,  DPI standards (Wis. Admin. Code sec. PI 8) require Physical Education to be taught, at a minimum,  three times a week for at least 30 minutes. This district did not come into compliance with this standard until the 2017-2018 school year.  Therefore until this last year, scheduling was not such a huge challenge. In the “3 section design” elementary schools we have (i.e. 3 Kindergarten, 3 first grades, etc.) this requires 54 sections a week of elementary P.E.  For one school, the schedule is illustrated at the bottom of this response. As you can see only one 30-minute space remains open for the entire week. Further, this schedule directly impacts reading and math. We require 120 minutes a day of literacy (reading and writing)  instruction and 90 minutes a day of math instruction. Because of gym limitations, the P.E. schedule must be implemented first and these other core academic blocks have to be scattered/split elsewhere in the day. Thus P.E. scheduling becomes the priority versus reading and math.  P.E. is critically important to students’ overall well-being and research proves that regular physical activity every day supports academic achievement, but space scheduling should not dictate opportunities for academic instruction. One principal said that “having a separate gym and cafeteria would be a complete game changer” in terms of scheduling and deployment of academic blocks.

Second, it requires a little over an hour and a half to serve all students lunch -- shoehorned into the day to keep the tight P.E schedule intact (11:00 - 12:35 in the sample schedule below).  Separating the gym would make the period when meals are served less rushed, not to mention the added stress to unset P.E. equipment and set up tables, then after lunch rushing to clean the cafeteria and reset the P.E. equipment.  Not a great meal experience for children, or teaching environment for staff.

Third, our 2 schools that have separate gyms and cafeterias (Deerfield & Forest Ridge) have opportunities to use the cafeteria as a large or small group instruction space without reducing P.E. instruction.  For example, bringing in guest speakers for three to six classes. We have observed they can hold science and engineering fairs and unique parent involvement learning events (e.g. math projects) at these two schools without disrupting P.E.  An “all-school” assembly at one of the 5 deficient elementary schools requires either two or more sessions due to the small space and means losing P.E. instruction for the time it takes to set up and run the assemblies. Finally the older schools with combined cafeterias and gyms, being designed in the 60’s,  also overall have much less space designed for small group breakouts or learning project collaboration. Freeing the cafeteria for use by such student groups would be a move towards more equitable opportunities for all children regardless of their school assigned by neighborhood. Children in 5 of our schools not only lose opportunities for large and small group learning opportunities,  they end up with less overall P.E. instruction over the course of a year.

Fourth, there are also non-instructional, but school culture-related issues negatively impacting 5 schools due to the lack of this space.  For example, in 5 of our 7 schools, when there is indoor recess due to inclement weather, it has to be held in classrooms with aides going from room to room and teachers losing uninterrupted planning time.  In the 2 schools with gyms and cafeterias, either or both spaces can be used for indoor recess -- more efficient supervision and less stress for students and staff. Another example, school music programs for parents held at schools without a separate gym and cafeteria have a much poorer environment for their children's performances due to this lack of space - sometimes they are forced to move such programs to a larger school.  Another example, ASPIRE after-school programs lock up the school gym/cafeteria until 6:00 p.m. greatly limiting community access to school facilities until after that time.


5. What are the areas/ departments involved in Career & Technical Education (CTE)? How many courses in this area does OCHS offer?

Career and Technical Education prepares Oak Creek-Franklin students for all 16 Career Clusters in the National Framework, representing more than 79 Career Pathways to help students navigate their way to greater success in college and career. Career Clusters help students discover their interests and passions, and empowers them to choose the educational pathway that can lead to success in high school, college and career.  The CTE Department is organized around 5 areas:

  1. Business, Marketing and Information Technology offers 15 different courses.  This link will take you to more information and examples of the career pathways that are supported.

  2. Technology and Engineering (which includes Engineering, Graphics, Autos, Metals, Woods, and Construction) offers 19 different courses.  This link will take you to more information and examples of the career pathways that are supported.

  3. Computer Sciences offers 6 different courses.  This link will take you to more information and examples of the career pathways that are supported.

  4. Family and Consumer Sciences offers 12 different courses.  This link will take you to more information and examples of the career pathways that are supported.

  5. Health Sciences offers 6 different courses.  This link will take you to more information and examples of the career pathways that are supported.

9. Can we see a list of these projects school by school?

Absolutely.  Click here to view.

You can also visit the Proposed Plans page of our website to view the plans for each school. 

6. How many students are involved in CTE ? Is this going up or down over the past few years?

This year there are over 1,000 students enrolled in various CTE courses across the 5 areas. This is about half of our high school population.  Some student may be taking one while others may be taking a series leading to a career pathway. Enrollment has been growing each year. In the last two years, two full-time staff members have been added to the CTE department because of increasing student interests and course requests.

7.  Why are the CTE classrooms and labs being expanded? What deficiencies justify this expansion, renovation, and remodeling?  Why do we need to update these rooms?

WATCH: Facility Needs for the Real World

The woodworking/Construction lab doesn’t have the necessary space for proper equipment. There isn't any project storage. There isn’t enough space for students to work on mock-ups. They do not have a “clean” classroom, only a  working lab. The construction program is growing and the amount of sections are limited based on sharing the woodworking and construction labs for both courses.

The Engineering Lab does not have the collaborative work space for team problem solving and design projects. There are not enough outlets, workspaces, or storage for both the work and for the equipment used in the engineering classes. There are no sinks for proper cleaning and disposal.

Metals: The current metals shop does not have the necessary space and utilities required for students to receive a complete education in modern metal fabrication processes. The metals students also do not have a dedicated “clean” classroom for more traditional introductory and safety lessons.

Except for replacing lighting and a couple of pieces of donated equipment, the Tech Ed Labs and woodshop have not been updated since the high school was originally built in 1960.

Graphic Arts: The room does not have the electrical or plumbing requirements for printing. Currently, a fuse blows if more than two machines are running at the same time. Our wash out sink drains into a 5 gallon pail that needs to be hand emptied into the sink drain.

Automotive lab does not have enough space, ceiling height or storage for the amount of students in the program. Vehicle lifts (to regular working height in industry) and high bays and additional stalls/workspaces are necessary.

Robotics: Robotics is in desperate need of dedicated work space and storage space for its equipment and tools.

The current Family and Consumer Sciences kitchens and equipment were set up to learn how to cook for individuals and their families. The overarching goal of Culinary Arts classes is to educate students on how to cook for other people as a career, in bulk, and serve customers.  Most commercial cooking techniques and practices cannot be performed with household cooking equipment due to high cooking temperatures, extensive usage, and large quantity of ingredients used. When entering the Culinary Arts profession, students with experience using commercial equipment will be more ready to succeed and advance themselves.  Commercial equipment will give students exposure to new industry recognized credentials like Servsafe and ProStart. Chefs and restaurant workers are in high demand.

There is no learning lab-based experience for high schoolers wishing to pursue careers working with young children.  In such a lab, students would observe and facilitate learning experiences for preschool-aged children from the community under teacher supervision. Many other area high schools have a child care lab for preschool-aged community children to attend under a high school child care course. Since we do not run a child care lab (preschool), students currently have to teach their preschool-aged curriculum to peers in class instead of to a real audience of preschoolers.  Adding this facility addition would help more students obtain Assistant Child Care Teacher state certification. We have been unable to add this element to the course due to facility restraints--a large enough space to facilitate this, no restroom in classroom and no secure entry were the top issues of why this has not already been implemented. The high school students would have direct application of their knowledge and skills taught in the child care class instead of observation visits at an alternate site.

8. What is included in the referendum we will vote on?

Separate Physical Education Spaces & Cafeterias at 5 schools:


Safety, Security, & Accessibility projects at all schools:


High School Performing Arts Education Center:


High School Career / Technical Education Updates:


Secondary Learning Environment Improvements at WMS and OCHS:


Elementary Learning Environment Improvement at 6 schools:


Physical Education & Fields :




10. How did you decide these projects were most needed over others that remain unaddressed in this referendum?

In June 2017, after a competitive bidding process, the School Board selected Nexus Solutions to help lead this study.  Over the past 12 months, Nexus Solutions  and Plunkett Raysich Architects (PRA) assessed the following areas of all schools

  • Educational Adequacy and Equity

  • Mechanical / Electrical / Technology / Heating / Cooling Systems

  • Deferred Maintenance Needs

  • Energy & Water Conservation / Operations Savings Opportunities

  • Safety / Security

  • Arts and Athletic Facilities including fields and other outdoor spaces

Throughout this process, there has been a great deal of input from many stakeholders across the community.  There were initial community-wide listening sessions on November 4, November 14 and November 16, 2017. Then throughout the winter, there were additional surveys and focus groups to gain clarity from the employee groups and other stakeholders on what we want for the future of our schools.  These multiple opportunities and the dialogue (and sometimes debate) ensured an effective way of infusing fresh ideas and new perspectives into the future of our schools and the futures of our students.

As specifics concepts were developed in the spring, we attempted to gather information on perspectives from as many of our stakeholders as possible so your School Board could make decisions about approving a 10-year facility plan that meets the needs of the community.   May 30 and June 5 we scheduled face to face opportunities for community engagement sessions to discern what the community may want for the future of their public schools. Several hundred community members participated and several hundred more voiced their opinions in another online survey.  Principals were consulted on a regular basis to share the voices and visions for their schools.

A firm was contracted to survey, in a statistically valid manner, a random sample of the Oak Creek and Franklin communities.  These results were reported to the community and School Board on June 26, 2018, Board Special Board meeting & Work Study. The School Board held additional meetings to share with the community and process all the project options provided by the Nexus and Plunkett Raysich on July 16, 2018, Board Work Study and July 30, 2018, Board Work Study.  

The list of needs started at over $100 Million, but after much community input and tough discussions with school principals and the School Board, the total of recommended projects was whittled down to $60,935,500.

11. How will these building improvements boost test scores and/or the educational experience? What does this referendum do to improve our students' achievement?

"A large body of research over the past century has consistently found that school facilities impact teaching and learning in profound ways. Yet … local policymakers often overlook the impact facilities can play in improving outcomes for both teachers and students. While improving facilities comes at a financial cost, the benefits of such investments often surpass the initial fiscal costs. Policymakers, thus, should focus greater attention on the impacts of facilities and adopt a long-term cost-benefit perspective on efforts to improve school facilities….Besides general maintenance and construction issues, researchers have found most schools lack 21st century facilities in the form of infrastructure, laboratories, and instructional space. More than half do not have sufficiently flexible instructional space for effective teaching to take place. Thus, facility quality is an important predictor of teacher retention and student learning. The physical and emotional health of students and teachers depend on the quality of the physical location, which makes establishing safe, healthy buildings essential.”  (excerpted from The Importance of School Facilities in Improving Student Outcomes, June 2015, Penn State)

The environmental setting has a direct impact on perception, comfort, motivation, and concentration in learning environments resulting in measurable boosts to children’s academic performance.   To see one example of a recent study, please see: Holistic Evidence and Design Project

12. What is the timeline for all the projects to be done if the referendum passes?

If the referendum passes we would immediately go into detailed design work, which could be 6 months or so.  Once the actual designs are done and specifications are written, the work would go out to bids, so most likely, we would not see construction start until late summer/fall 2019 with most of the work being done in 2020. We will coordinate construction phases and timing to cause the least disruption to our programs, including summer school.  This careful phasing may push finishing all projects into the summer of 2021.

13. Will we need to build new schools if the growth expected to be coming to this region lies ahead?


Our recent study by the U.W. Applied Population Lab shows that our school district is expected to have relatively flat growth over the next ten years.  We have actually declined slightly these past two years. Further, if growth began occurring against the predictions, we have two resources to address that problem.  First, we have about 400 students attending our schools under Open Enrollment. The School Board each year each year approves a limit based on space availability.  We theoretically could “turn off” any open spaces and this would open spaces for new residents, who obviously have the first right to our schools.  Second, our elementary schools (except Cedar Hills) are designed as ‘3-section’ schools (that is 3 Kindergarten, 3 First grades, etc). Many elementary schools are designed to have 4 sections. As part of our study, we asked the architects to show us how we might possibly expand by adding 5 classrooms (one for each grade). Theoretically, this could be done at Cedar Hills, Meadowview, Carollton, and Edgewood.  The sites at Shepard Hills, Forest Ridge, and Deerfield are just too small to add classrooms. We very likely will not need to consider this second option for 20 or more years, but it is reassuring to know we will not need to build any more schools for a very, very long time. We just need to address the needs we have.

14. My school ’s heating and cooling seem to be a problem; always breaking down, but I don’t see this on the school’s project list. Why not?

Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) projects in schools that needed them were addressed in the Revenue Limit for Energy Efficiency (RLEE)  program approved by the School Board in December 2017. That program addressed about $17 million of outdated equipment in the oldest schools and will be paid back, in part, by future savings.   This work was begun at West Middle School this summer. If the referendum passes, that work and planning will be carefully coordinated with the work included in the referendum for the least disruption, greatest efficiency, and potential cost savings. 

It should be noted the District chose not to include installing energy efficient, brighter LED lighting in the RLEE program.  However, we have committed to investing over $2 million to do this over the next few years by borrowing from our fund balance and then paying this back with the reduce electricity cost. These plans have been coordinated with the HVAC projects and will also be coordinated with the projects in the referendum.

15. Why is the OCHS pool not part of the referendum?

The swimming pool at OCHS does need some repairs and improvement and a long-term plan.  In our study, we came up with several solutions varying widely in cost.  In our community engagement sessions and phone survey, we did not get a clear idea of which solution would be most acceptable to the various stakeholders.  We also had some late feedback on other options and opportunities to consider more deeply.   Therefore, unlike the rest of the referendum projects, we were not confident in putting forward a solution that is best.  We have committed to continuing to study this to determine a best long-term solution for all parts of our community.

16. How did you go about establishing the amounts for each project? If a person wanted to inspect an item by item list that resulted in these numbers, are they available? How can we know we are getting the best value for our tax dollars?

Nexus Solutions and Plunkett Raysich Architects evaluated the spaces to be renovated, the extent of the work being proposed, impact on heating, ventilating, air conditioning and electrical systems, and completed a consultation with educators to identify furniture, equipment, and technology needs to determine an appropriate and reasonable budget.  These budgets are based on similar school projects that have been bid out in the recent past, considering current market conditions, a factor for construction inflation, and include industry-standard contingencies for unforeseen conditions arising during construction.

The District has spent over a year assessing and analyzing detailed information.  Options have been reviewed and priorities established. The outcome is a needs-based proposal that is being brought to a referendum for the community’s consideration.  The District will stay closely involved with the project throughout the detailed design process ensuring that nothing unnecessary is incorporated into the plans and specifications.  The projects will then be competitively bid to qualified contractors to assure the best price possible. Nexus is responsible for keeping the project on budget. Meanwhile, all bid underages go back to the District for decision-making.  This approach ensures the community gets the highest value for its investment.

At this phase in the process, we have established an overall project budget.  The line items in that budget are available on the District’s website. If the community approves the referendum, we will move into the detailed design phase.  We will assemble design teams that will include members from the District to help provide input.  Detailed plans and specifications for all aspects of the project will be developed and used to solicit competitive construction bids.  Ultimately, the Board will select the winning firms. Some items may come in a bit higher, some will come in lower, but we are managing to the overall project budget of no more than $60,935,000.

17. How long will it take to pay off $60.9 million? What is the cost including financing of the bonds / What is the cost of not financing the projects in 2018?

The bonds are for 20 years.  If possible, we will attempt to pay them off sooner or at a faster rate as there is no pre-payment penalty.

Just like the total cost of paying off the mortgage on your home over 15 or 30 years is more than the initial price of your home, there is a cost to finance these bonds.  If the bonds are held the entire 20 year period and if interest rates remain at what has been projected the total cost with financing is estimated at $99,981,508. The per taxpayer cost of of $118 per year (or $9.81 per month) on a $225,000 home covers this total cost, not just the bonds themselves.  

If these projects were not funded by bonds in 2018, in 20 years the cost of the $60.9 million in projects, due to construction inflation (estimated a 4 - 5% per year) would be between $133,516,080 and $161,678,696.  Therefore bonding and completing these projects in 2018 saves overall approximately $30 million versus waiting PLUS allows our students and staff to use these improvement for 20 years during the payoff period.  This is the same way we enjoy the use of our homes while the mortgage is being paid off.

18. The Shepard Hills PTO just donated some new equipment that was installed this summer. What will happen to the Shepard Hills playground?

Shepard Hills is our smallest school site, so options were limited.  The project costs include relocating the playground, including that beautiful new piece.  Thank you, PTO!

19. What are ‘break out spaces’ / ‘flexible learning spaces’ / ‘project rooms’ /’collaboration spaces’ and why are they important? Why did many of these spaces disappear in the final facility plan?

Many of the “flexible learning spaces” identified as additions in the first round of our facility study did not make the ‘final cut’ into this referendum.  Community members saw more spaces identified in the initial designs presented in the May/June Community Engagement sessions than you will see in the finalized plans.   The ones that remain are due to design opportunities versus systemic addition of such flexible spaces (which you will see much more prevalently at the 9th Grade Center and Forest Ridge.)

More and more research on how students learn best has school architects moving away from industrial-era blueprints emphasizing single-use 28x28 spaces connected by long hallways designed to move students rapidly between bell periods.  This traditional 1930-60’s school model is based on a factory model: self-contained ‘boxes’ where students spend a year (or semester) then move to the next box on the assembly line. The box was designed to efficiently let a teacher lecture to large numbers of students seated in rows.  Such “teacher-centered’ classrooms often do not meet the needs of all 21st century learners who need to not only read, do math and memorize certain facts, but solve problems, think critically, collaborate, create, and communicate in every direction.


Why is such flexibility in learning space important?

To optimize twenty-first-century teaching methods such as project-based learning and personalized learning systems, space must be adaptable to allow multiple learning activities to occur simultaneously.  A flexible classroom is fundamental to an instructor’s ability to adapt to various needs. The design must allow for a variety of learning environments and grouping formats that consider all learning styles profiles.   Learner-centered classrooms are designed to accommodate different teaching and learning formats, including:

  • Individual study and reflection

  • One-on-one instruction

  • Peer-to-peer discussion

  • Small-group work

  • Teacher-directed instruction  

  • Student presentation   

New schools are designed with breakout spaces (sometimes called collaboration rooms, project rooms, etc).  These spaces are designed to provide a defined space for 2, or 4, or 6, or 8 adults/ learners with the means to control their noise, comfort, and collaboration. In recent research, (Holistic Evidence and Design Project, p. 28) classrooms with clear breakout zones or breakout rooms attached were found to impact positively on learning outcomes in reading  and math.


Why did we reduce the number of such spaces in the final plan?

  • We had to prioritize to address the most critical needs at a more reasonable cost.

  • Based on feedback for our engagement sessions and survey, there did not yet seem to be a widespread understanding by community members on the “why” behind such spaces.

  • Many teachers have found ways to  make their ‘box’ classroom more flexible using furnishings and creative use of existing spaces (for example simply asking to open a doorway between classrooms).

  • The need to separate the elementary gymnasium and cafeteria was determined to be more critical.  In doing so, the cafeteria becomes an excellent “breakout space / flexible learning space/ project room” .  

  • We found opportunities to create or maintain some spaces in cost effective ways that also met multiple needs (for example,  at West Middle School replacing the fixed lecture hall seating, with reconfigured floor tiers for collaborative work and also improve accessibility for persons with physical disabilities)

20. Why is the cafeteria at OCHS being expanded?

With the 2014 Referendum, the community decided that the OCHS campus would be designed to accommodate up to 3,000 students; 1000 at the new building (the Ninth Grade Center) and 2,000 in the existing 1960 building (the 10-12 building).  The size of the current cafeteria is too small to efficiently serve 2,000 students (we saw this before we moved the 9th graders to the other building).

Even with moving the 9th grade students out (and going from 4  to 5 lunch periods a day overall on the campus) students at the 10-12 building have a crowded and rushed time in their three lunch periods.  Since the facility plan included adding a cardio room and a multi-purpose room in more useful locations adjacent to the Auxiliary Gym, it was determined that the currently underutilized multi-purpose room to the west of the cafeteria could be used to create a more student-friendly space for the lunchtime experience.  One aspect of this is more space. Another aspect is enabling our food service provider to offer some satellite serving stations to help with the long lines issue. We also anticipate providing various types of more student-friendly furniture that would both improve the student meal experience and also make this space more attractive for useable flexible learning space at other times of the day.    Why more flexible learning space? See Question 19 above, please.

21. What are the needs of the Auxiliary Gym at OCHS?

This 1960s era  gym needs to be renovated in order to be used effectively in the future for physical education and/or athletics. Other than finishing the floor, this space has not been renovated since 1960.   Thorough repairs and updating of the 50 year old environment would include new bleachers, ceiling, paint, flooring, and equipment. Specific problems are that the wood flooring has many 'dead' spots that cause balls to not bounce properly, the bleachers are old and failing and do not have ADA compliant handrails, the walls and paint are chipped, damaged and in need of repair and repainting, the mezzanine does not have ADA compliant guardrails, the mechanical, lighting and audio systems are not adequate for the current use of this space.   The benefits from implementing the proposed repairs include improved safety, a more appropriate physical education space, more appropriate use for athletic competition and other uses.

22. Why not just knock down the old schools and build new ones?

That option was considered and rejected.  There are 3  basic reasons why:  

  1. Building a new elementary school costs about $20-$25 Million.  To build 5 would be too expensive.  To build 2 might make 2 attendance areas satisfied, but leaves 3 schools with significant inequities and deficiencies.  
  2. The logistics of demolishing a school and building a new one does not allow the school to continue without interruption - unless you have extra space to build.  None of our sites are large enough to build an adjacent school building and then demolish the old one.  We don't want to go through the pain of double shifting families and teachers for two or more years.  We don't have an extra 10 or 15 acres available. 
  3. Some of our schools may be old and need to address some maintenance and equity, but based on our engineering study, their ”bones” are good if we properly maintain and update them.  None of the schools need to be demolished for any reason; this would be a waste of taxpayer funds.  Therefore this did not make sense to achieve our 5 goals in the most cost-effective, practical way.

23. Why aren’t the Athletic Fields a separate question? Why isn’t the Performing Arts Education Center a separate referendum question? Shouldn’t the elementary gymnasiums be a separate referendum question?

Several people have asked these or similar questions.  The context appears to be wanting what they most strongly support or most strongly oppose to be separate so they can vote for or against their personal priorities.  

Recent changes in state law placed strict limitations on Schools Boards in regards to referenda.   School districts are now limited to posing only two referendum questions in any calendar year and only holding referendums on regularly scheduled general election dates.  This has to be considered in planning.

There was significant discussion about whether to have some sort of “second question” and certain people wanted certain things as their priority in the “first question”; everything else would go into the “second question”.  In the end, based on the year-long study, we believe we have presented a plan where everything included is very important for the future of our schools; achieving these five critical goals:

  1. Providing students with greater learning opportunities

  2. Improving the safety and security of our schools

  3. Modernizing older schools’ physical environments to bring all schools to equitable standards - with each other and our key competitors.

  4. Significantly catching up on the backlog of deferred maintenance projects

  5. Assuring property values by maintaining a high-quality school system

Through the study process, we eliminated over $40 million of potential projects,  winnowing the list down to what is most needed. In the school district’s view, nothing in the project list is “less” than another.  Just like public education supports all kids and all families, this is a package of priority needs presented for community consideration.   Understanding certain projects appeal to some stakeholders more than others, the package needs to be weighed by the community to see if our community agrees or disagrees with the vision for a successful future that has been presented by the School Board.

24. Why can’t the district use the existing operational budget to cover the costs of these facilities improvements?

Oak Creek-Franklin is one of two school districts in Milwaukee County  - and a handful across the state - trapped in “low revenue limit” status.  When revenue limits were frozen into place in the early 1990’s OC-F was saddled with one of the lowest limits.  As limits were gradually increased over the years, districts stayed in the relatively ‘ordered’ position from high to low based on their starting point. Gaps became wider and wider as many districts passed referenda to increase their revenue limit. That never happened in OC-F.   The revenue limit has not been increased for the past four years. Only in 2018 did the legislature take a ‘baby step’ towards resolving this fundamental inequity of school funding in Wisconsin. They raised the lowest limit by $100 per year and then $100 annually for 4 more years.  This won’t impact OC-F until 2019-2020. This is a move in the right direction, but compare:


Table 8a:   School district per-pupil revenues, 2016-17

Source:  “PUBLIC SCHOOLING IN SOUTHEAST WISCONSIN”  December 2017 from Public Policy Forum, Inc.


Property Taxes

State Aid

Federal Aid

Total Revenue






Franklin Public





New Berlin





West Allis















South Milwaukee










Oak Creek-Franklin






The inequity is that neighboring school districts, sometimes children living across the street from one another,  have $1,000 - $2,000 more, per student in revenue every year to run their schools. (Note: the chart above includes federal entitlement aid, for example special education or Title 1 which is outside state imposed revenue limits.)  

As a low revenue limit district, Oak Creek-Franklin culture has been known for its leanness.  This district does not have many things other districts have. The district has invested comparably in instructional costs and teacher salaries to order to to provide a quality education.  When that happens, there is little left for “stuff”. The district has admirably (compared to some) committed to spending $1.2 Million per year for capital improvements. However that number has not grown for at least 10 years.  Therefore to meet our facility needs we need to use tools like the Revenue Limit Exemption for Energy Efficiency projects (ended in 2017) or going to referenda for improvements that are delayed or emergent. In 2020-2023, as the revenue limits slightly increase for us, our district will need to consider increasing this $1.2 Million to a cost more reasonable for a district this size.

25. If this referendum were to be approved, what would be the status of the Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) Plan?

At the conclusion of the 2017-2018 Facilities Study, $55,949,395 in Capital Improvement Projects were identified for 2018-2028.   Some of these projects are deferred maintenance (e.g. HVAC systems from 1960 that were failing boiler by boiler), some of these were ongoing maintenance issues (e.g. annual painting plan), some were needed improvements (e.g. changing lights to LED for brightness and energy efficiency) and others were upcoming maintenance that would become due over the next 2 to 10 years (e.g. parking lots at East Middle School).  Of these projects,

  • $17,480,000 worth qualified for Revenue Limit Exemption for Energy Efficiency (RLE).  That is, doing them would reduce energy costs which could be used, in part, to pay back RLE bonds.  The School Board approve this plan in December, 2017. Work was begun at WMS this summer and will move on to the other schools in the future.

  • $2,440,028 was for replacing lighting in the schools to brighter and more energy efficient LED lighting.  The School Board approved funding these projects from Fund Balance and then paying it back with energy savings (like a loan to ourselves from savings). Work was begun at WMS this summer and will move on to the other schools in the future.

  • $15,633,439 worth of projects are included in this 2018 referendum. These projects were the highest priorities in terms of safety and/or when they would become deferred or that made sense in coordination with other construction projects.

  • $20,395,928 in projects remain ahead in the ten year CIP Plan.  The district will continue to fund at least $1.2 million per year out of the operating budget to address these project as they become due.  The district will likely need to use the incremental increase in the revenue limit (see question 24) to increase spending in this area so we never again get so far behind.  In addition to these steps, over the last two years the district has acted to address this challenge with

26. Why do we need a Performing Arts Education Center ? Why isn’t using the gym an acceptable option? What learning opportunities will students have that they don’t have now?

WATCH: The Future of Fine Arts at Oak Creek-Franklin

First, a Performing Arts Education Center is a ‘real life’ laboratory in which students can learn by doing critical life-enhancing skills including, but not limited to:

  • Creativity and expression,

  • Honing a craft and future career / profession,

  • Providing students an evaluative and interpretive lens by letting them experience many different historical, cultural, and genres of art and literature,

  • Confidence in public speaking, performance, expression, and elocution,

  • Working together as a team - even though a performer may be on stage, there is a supportive cast and crew that is never taken for granted,

  • Audience etiquette (a component of music state standards), and

  • Integrating application and understanding of all areas of the curriculum: Literature, Music, Art, Dance, Technology, Carpentry, Engineering, Finance, Marketing, Business, and more.

Second, in seeking our goal of 100% of graduates being prepared for college and careers of their choice, we are severely limited in providing opportunities for students interested in the hundreds of career options within the performing arts. Graduates who go on to study and attain careers in the performing arts are not all going to be actors or professional musicians. In fact, the majority of the careers and jobs available in the entertainment industry are what most people would call “backstage.” For example, audio engineer technicians,  broadcast technicians, lighting engineers and operators, set designers, stage hands; and it is specifically these types of highly technical careers and futures that we cannot even begin to demonstrate to our students without the learning laboratory of a Performing Arts Education Center.

Third, at any given moment - over 700 High School students involved in the arts could be using a Performing Arts Education Center in Band, Choir, and Theater alone.  This is over 30% of the student body. Our facilities should serve all our population-they currently are not. Oak Creek is one of the largest high schools in the state.  Compared to other schools our size, we are the ONLY school that does not have a designated performance space. OCFSD students are performing at extremely high levels, and the audience should be able to hear and see the performances the way they were intended without distractions of comfort, extraneous noise from facilities, eye sores, and poor acoustics.

Fourth, the use of a Performing Arts Education Center is extremely VERSATILE and can be used for Lecturers, Band, Choir, Orchestra, Jazz Band, and Guest Artist Concerts, Award & Honorary Ceremonies, Dramatic Plays, Musical Theatre Performances, Dance Competitions and Shows, Battle of Bands, Talent Shows, Movies, Community Gathering & Interaction, Regional Events, Banquets, Adult Education, Political Debate, and even School Assemblies or Classrooms. In the current situation, a massive amount of time and resources are wasted in setting up and tearing down to transform gymnasiums for performances, award ceremonies, and assemblies.  A dedicated space would save the district money that is currently lost to staffing that do this work, as well as prevent the wear and tear on equipment associated with the movement of setting up and taking down. It would also alleviate the need for physical education classes to be displaced for all of the events that require the use of the gym, which is a very common occurrence.

Finally, a Performing Arts Education Center will provide an opportunity for community use of school facilities to enhance the quality of life in Oak Creek instead of traveling to Franklin High School.

27. Will there be the ability to add seating to the proposed Performing Arts Education Center in the future?

Yes.  If it is desired in the future, the PAEC will be designed to add a balcony that could seat approximately 150 people.

28. How near the statutory debt limit would approving this referendum make our district? / Why use debt to accomplish these projects?

  1. Debt, in moderation, allows our students and teachers to reap the benefits of providing necessary and educationally sound modifications to our existing facilities while paying back the costs over time.  Much like purchasing a home and paying a mortgage off. You take on a level of debt acceptable to you and which you are ​reasonably sure you can pay off so you are able to have a home to live in. Trying to save up $60.9M so as not to borrow anything more would place an almost impossible strain on the annual operating budget and during the time period when dollars were being saved by cut​s​ to programming, construction inflation would cause the cost of projects to increase between 4% and 5% per year or higher.  If these projects were not funded by bonds in 2018, in 20 years the cost of the $60.9 million in projects, due to construction inflation would be between $133,516,080 and $161,678,696. Therefore bonding and completing these projects in 2018 saves approximately $30 million or more PLUS allows students and staff to use effective improvements in a better learning environment for 20 years during the payoff period.

  2. Our district presently is paying back $104,800,000 from previous referenda and other borrowings.   Were the referendum to be approved, our total debt as of June 30, 2019 (including the $60.9M) would be $161,395,000 after making the scheduled debt payments on existing debt during the 2018-19 school year.

  3. The statutory debt limit for school districts is 10% of the equalized value of the school district set each October. On October 1, 2017 our district was valued at $3,802,114,900.  Therefore, our maximum allowable debt is $380,211,490. (this is anticipated to  rise when the new valuation is announced on October 1, 2018). Using 2017 valuations, should the referendum pass, our debt ratio to maximum allowable would be at 42.45%  which is 57.55% lower than the statutory limit.


*UPDATE* On October 1, 2018 our district was valued at 3,935,149,675.  Therefore, our maxium debt is $393,514,967.  Using 2018 valuations, should the referendum pass, our debt ratio to maximum allowable would be at 41.02%  which is 58.98% lower than the statutory limit.

29. What new operational costs will the district be required to fund in the future if this referendum is approved? Given the district is a "low revenue limit" district, how does the district plan to fund these new costs?

We believe we can absorb the operational costs of these facilities and improvements benefiting our students and staff without any loss of resources to maintain our priority support of direct instructional services. For the following analysis, keep in mind that if this referendum were approved, these projects would be phased in across the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years, with full implementation of all projects in 2021-2022 - -  not all at once. (See Question #12).  

New Annual Operational Costs

  • Since the opening of the Ninth Grade Center, there has been a request for additional custodial time.  Addition of the the Performing Arts Education Center and related CTE space at OCHS, increases the priority of this need on the High School Campus and therefore the district would plan to add one full-time custodial/maintenance position (Cost: $80,000 incl. salary and full benefits.)

  • For space additions at the elementary school, the district would plan to add  approximately 500 hours of additional contract cleaning services with related supplies (Cost:  approximately $17,000)

  • For some time, there has been the need for an additional groundskeeper (regardless of this referendum).  Addition of the Varsity Baseball field would make this need an even higher priority and therefore the district would plan to add one full-time  year-round grounds/maintenance position (Cost: $80,000 incl. salary and full benefits.)

  • On average, the district spends approximately $0.86 per square foot on all utilities for the schools. Therefore, the proposed 96,595 square feet of additions would cost approximately $83,000 annually in additional utility costs.

  • Increase in property insurance is estimated to be approximately $5,000.


New Annual Revenues

  • Presently, rental of the 2 elementary dedicated gyms brings into approximately $4,000 (Deerfield)  and $6,000 (Forest Ridge) annually. There are waiting lists, as well. With 7 dedicated gyms, we believe this revenue would at least double, so conservatively estimate an increase in this revenue to at least $20,000, an increase of $10,000 annually.  This is assuming the fees for facility usage, currently under study, remain the same. It is likely time to look at an increase as they have not been increased in a long while. It is also likely that rental of the Performing Arts Educational Center would bring in revenue, but as this is a new feature, it is not possible to estimate in a reasonably conservative way such revenues.  We have, however already had inquires about its availability for rental so we know there is demand and when possible, would plan to open this to the community as we do all our other facilities.

  • The statute increasing the low revenue limit by $100 per year will bring in additional revenue of $0 in 2018-2019,  an estimated $157,000 in 2019-2020 and an additional estimated $629,000 in 2020-2021. These amounts build the revenue limit permanently (unlike the increases proved by the state the past four years which are categorical, not permanent).


The Bottom Line

Estimated New Annual  Operational COSTS upon full implementation =   $265,000

Estimated New Annual REVENUES upon full implementation = $796,000


Therefore we believe we can absorb the operational costs of these facilities and improvements benefiting our students and staff without any loss or potential loss of resources to maintain our priority support of direct instructional services.

30. What is the number of parking spots gained at OCHS?

There will be a net increase of about 290 new parking spaces on the campus of Oak Creek High School.   We hope this will encourage more students to park on-site versus in the neighborhoods or nearby business parking lots.

31. Does the referendum plan include aspects of the City of Oak Creek Safe Routes to School report?

The ‘Safe Routes to School’ study adopted by the City of Oak Creek  (http://www.oakcreeksrts.com/ ) provided the city and the school district with 88 recommendations to improve safety when walking to school.  70 of these recommendations are on city streets or property or under city authority. 18 are on district property or under our authority.  The referendum directly address implementation of 12 of these 18 recommendations. The district is studying the remaining 6.

32. Someone is saying that the proposed new Performing Arts Education Center "will not fit the whole High School Band on its stage". Is this true?

No.  At this point, there are no blueprints or specifications.  The picture boards are conceptual drawings to generate square footage that generates a funding amount needed to create such spaces based on costs in other recent school developments. Should the referendum pass on November 6, there would be a 6 to 8 month design phase.  It is during this intense, specifications-development phase the band teachers and others staff members involved with the performing arts will meet with architects and engineers to work out answers to many specifications, including how big the stage needs to be to meet their needs.

33. Someone is saying that "Nexus will be paid at least $9M, plus the building contract". Is this true?

No.  If the referendum passes, Nexus and Plunkett Raysitch Architects will be paid professional services fees as they are needed as determined by the school district to accomplish the goals of the referendum. This is the same for any major building project.  There is no "at least" or guaranteed amount. Further Nexus will not be the contractor for construction. That will be competitively bid out to construction firms (who also will have a fee for professional service built into their contract.) The District will be part of the review process and ultimately responsible for the selection of the contractor after the competitive bidding process.

34. Someone is saying the new operating costs for the additions versus the new income will result in a "net loss of $645,00 annually". Is this true?

No. We have no idea where those numbers came from.   Please see question 29. We project the new operating costs to be $265,000 and new revenues to be $796,000 by 2020-2021.

35. Someone is saying the district "claimed" they would "receive state dollars by law (statute), and labeled this money 'revenue'. No such statute exists." Is this true?

No.  Wisconsin statute 121.905(1)(a) increases the low revenue limit by $100 per year.  This will bring in additional revenue of $0 in 2018-2019, an estimated $157,000 in 2019-2020 and an additional estimated $629,000 in 2020-2021.

37. Someone is saying the November 6 referendum is "not for district-wide classroom needs". Is this true?

No. Over $9M is included for improving classroom learning environments in the district's oldest school's classrooms.

36. Someone is saying the November 6 referendum is "not for the remaining deferred maintenance." Is this true?

No.  The November 6 referendum addresses $15,633,439 worth of backlogged or pending maintenance projects. These projects were the highest priorities in terms of safety and/or when they would become deferred or that made sense in coordination with other construction projects.