METAMORA — Madison Street, in front of Metamora Township High School, shuts down at the end of the school day to make room for students loading into double-parked school buses. Music students practice in the piano lab, a long, narrow converted janitor’s closet, packed with 12 keyboards and 12 headphone sets.
Many of the school’s building headaches would have been repaired, replaced or updated by now if voters had passed an $18.6 million referendum in 2016. Voters objected to the property tax increase. But the bond referendum is back on the ballot for the April 4 elections, this time with skinnier plans at a lower price tag.
Residents of the high school district — which pulls in students from Metamora, Germantown Hills, and Spring Bay — will decide an $11 million bond referendum question. A successful referendum, from supporters’ standpoint, would mean the end of school buses parked in the middle of the street and no more piano lessons in a cramped former closet.
“This referendum is based on what voters say they want,” says Principal Sean O’Laughlin.
After the 2016 referendum failed, supporters went back to the drawing board, asking residents what improvements they thought were needed most.
Officials slashed $7 million in planned improvements, mainly additions to gymnasium and cafeteria space, based on survey responses of about 350 people.
What remains would still affect everyone in the nearly 1,000-student high school, O’Laughlin says.
Money from a bond sale would be used for major improvements, including a new off-street bus loop for school buses and a separate drop-off site for cars; a more distinct and secure main entrance; take-cover areas during severe weather; a new library with computer labs and renovations in the school’s fine arts and career and technical education programs, ranging from auto mechanics to pre-engineering.
A new robotics lab, on the new centralized hallway that connects the main building and the vocational departments, would allow the district to show off its award-winning robotics program. Student welders would get new welding booths and better ventilation. The music department, featuring sound-proof practice rooms, would almost double in size. With a new, larger commercial kitchen, the culinary arts teacher would no longer have to turn away about 20 students a semester because of lack of space.
The renovations won’t be limited to classroom use, according to Superintendent Randy Toepke.
“In Metamora, the high school is the community center.”
Though initial plans for take-cover shelters were downsized after the 2016 referendum, they’re still one of the most important components to Doug Herring, a Metamora graduate and son of a former Metamora principal who is now leading the citizens’ effort to pass the referendum.
With areas to the south and north of Metamora having experienced tornadoes in recent years, it’s necessary for the school for the school to be prepared, according to Herring. The current plan includes enough shelter and other protected areas to accommodate 1,100 people.
“That’s one reason I got involved,” says Doug Herring, a Caterpillar Inc. retiree. “I remember all the drills and shelters we had at work. Then I came to the school and they didn’t have any.”
Pam Adams can be reached at 686-3245 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @padamspam.