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Referendum ahead for Rib Lake

School board eyes scaled back plan after seeing resident survey results
Referendum ahead for Rib Lake
Students in the Medford Area Senior High School building trades program have been hard at work building a home on the south end of Pep’s Drive in the city of Medford. Here students and their teacher work putting shingles on the structure. Once completed the home will be sold and funds used to build a second home nearby. BRIAN WILSON/THE STAR NEWS
Referendum ahead for Rib Lake
Students in the Medford Area Senior High School building trades program have been hard at work building a home on the south end of Pep’s Drive in the city of Medford. Here students and their teacher work putting shingles on the structure. Once completed the home will be sold and funds used to build a second home nearby. BRIAN WILSON/THE STAR NEWS

At the Rib Lake Board of Education meeting on November 15, 2023, the Board viewed a plan redrawn by Excel Engineering - a company that the Board hired last winter to study all School District facilities and create plans to update the schools to a modern age. With tentative plans to go to referendum this April, the deadline is quickly approaching to finalize these plans and approve asking the Rib Lake public if they approve making such changes and additions to their schools.

After the Rib Lake public was surveyed and the results got reported back to the Board with the disappointing news that a referendum the size they had planned would most likely be denied, the Board further narrowed down what they felt were necessary improvements to the schools to ensure a future for the Rib Lake School District. These included connecting the middle and high school buildings, making a secure entrance for this combined building, improving the music practice spaces for band and choir at the high school, and, as most of the kitchen equipment is from when the Rib Lake High School was first built in the 1960s, completely updating the high school kitchen and cafeteria.

Excel Engineering came back to the November Board of Education meeting having reduced the original $22.7 million plan to around $19.5 million by completely cutting any significant renova- See RIB LAKE on page 5 tions to the Rib Lake Elementary School, removing an office addition and instead keeping the District Office where it is in the Elementary School, removing a bus dropoff and pickup loop, reducing added parking areas, eliminating improvements to the outdoor athletic program areas, reducing the originally designed size of the new gymnasium, and scrapping a plan to add a daycare into the Rib Lake School District facilities.

Changes kept in the plan include connecting the middle and high school buildings to create a safer environment for students attending classes in both schools to travel between them, making a secure entrance to the middle and high school, updating the kitchen and cafeteria spaces in the buildings, creating a single space cafeteria and kitchen space for both schools, and removing the high school gym from its current location to make space for an improved band and choir space. The gymnasium would be rebuilt next to its current location to create a better space for Rib Lake to host other schools in the future.

It is important to note that the tax impact on the Rib Lake public would only change by $9.5 million with this current plan. This is due to the referendum in 2015 being paid off in full, relieving the taxpayer of $10 million in tax impact after this fiscal year is complete.

It is also important to note that all projects for capital maintenance on school buildings over a certain dollar amount must be approved via referendum. Capital Maintenance expenditures are monies that must be paid to keep the facilities and equipment running correctly. Without spending this money on the project for capital expenditures, the Rib Lake School District will likely struggle with mounting repair costs.

“All capital maintenance isn’t shown [visually] on this plan. So, like, for our Elementary School that’s from 1999, a number of our larger appliances, like our HVAC, are starting to fail. The continued things that we need to fix that are in this plan as well. All of the window, the fixtures, you’ll see the rust at the bottom of our doorways around here from our water table… all of that is still getting done [with this plan],” Grubbs said, explaining what types of capital projects they are looking at addressing.

The Board will need to make a final decision on whether they are going to ask the Rib Lake school district taxpayers for $19 million at their board meeting on December 27, 2023. If this plan is approved, the district’s consultants will write up formal legal language for a Board Resolution that will be scheduled to be considered at the January Board meeting.

State report cards

The State of Wisconsin published its annual school report cards this month, comparing schools across the state. In addition, the Rib Lake School District also published a local school report card, specifically comparing changes between school years at the various grade levels.

On the state scores from the Department of Public Instruction, the district received an overall score of 69.6 which places it in the “Meets Expectations” level. On the individual school level, the high school received a 66.7 “Meets Expectations” grade, the middle school received a 70.8 “Exceeds Expectations” grade and the elementary school received a 70.9 “Exceeds Expectation” grade by the DPI.

One of the major challenges for consistently high achieving districts such as Rib Lake is that about one-third of the rating is based on student growth.

Rib Lake school district has about 15.9% of students with disabilities and 46.2% who are considered economically disadvantaged. In addition 3.1% of students are classified as English Learners.

Along with this information, the Board also viewed state standardized testing scores statistics from the 20222023 school year. The scores showed that, for the most part, more Rib Lake students in grades 3-8 are higher achieving than the average among their peers in Wisconsin. Rib Lake has fewer students at the “below basic” level and more students in the “basic,” “proficient,” and “advanced” levels. Grades 9, 10, and 11 also take standardized tests. The 9th and 10th graders take a test called the “Pre-ACT Secure.” This gets students ready for the format and content of the ACT in 11th grade, and gives them scores that look similar to what they will receive on the ACT. At the 9th and 10th grade levels, Rib Lake students, on average, scored higher than the state average for students at the same grade level. For the official ACT exam, though, Rib Lake students scored slightly lower on the ACT on average than students at other schools in Wisconsin. With the scores trending lower for the 11th graders but the scores trending higher for the 9th and 10th graders, one can see the growth in the students coming up, and see how the Rib Lake School District is improving steadily as time goes on.

In other business:

Two students, Anna Martin and Gabriella Gustafson, from the Rib Lake High School Student Council came to update the board on the goings-on of the high school.

Rib Lake Middle School was ranked by US News as #41 out of all Wisconsin middle schools.

The School District received its security assessment from Rib Lake Chief of Police Derek Beckstrand. This assessment is done yearly to show the board ways they could help make the schools’ buildings more safe for the students in the Rib Lake School District. This showed the same flaws as previous assessments, including the lack of secure entrances at the middle and high schools, and a less-than-optimal secure entrance at the elementary school. Other areas for improvement as noted are the number of blind spots and low-quality images in the security camera system, poor lighting in certain areas of the buildings, and a number of keyed entrances, rather than FOB entrances. A number of these problems are addressed by the capital improvements in the potential referendum plan.

Rib Lake will be inducting another person into their “Hall of Fame.” They will be inducting Dr. Kurt Zimmerman. The ceremony will be held on January 12, 2024 at 1 PM.

Skyward IT came on-site to the Rib Lake schools to focus on improving the networks at all facilities, particularly focusing on the elementary school. The results of this are greatly improved network speeds across the board and a guest wifi network that works like it’s meant to.

The next meeting of the Rib Lake Board of Education will be held on December 27, at 6:30 p.m.


As part of the Oktoberfest celebration, Medford Morning Rotary raised $5,000 for Taylor County Supportive Housing. (Right) Pictured, Jessica Mudgett of Taylor County Supportive Housing with Rotary president Sam Kern. (Above) Club members Marcus Klemm, Marilyn Frank, Ben Koch, Aaron Ludwig, Oralee Dittrich, Sheryl Balciar, Dave Slatcheka, Denise Carstensen, Sue Thiede and Nate Bilodeau with the donation.