Board votes to close school

Alarm malfunction contributes to Algonquin decision

May 23, 2007

Algonquin School, a source of ongoing maintenance and safety issues, will close permanently at the end of the school year.

The Brown Deer School Board made the decision May 22 to shut the 49-year-old school building.

Dozens of parents urged district leadership to take into consideration the safety of the 200 children attending the school before the unanimous vote was taken.

"We have been very lucky in this district that nothing has happened as far as the safety of our children," said Brown Deer resident Chris Frede, 5226 W. Nokomis Road. "I'm a parent. Does Brown Deer want my (child) in school this fall? Other parents that I have talked to think this is crazy."

The board also agreed to relocate the students to modular classrooms to be connected to Dean School next year.

The district will lease a modular school building that will contain eight classrooms and bathroom facilities.

"The modular classrooms … are probably better than some of our current classrooms," School Superintendent Bruce Connolly said. "The technology is better, the insulation is better, the heating is better and the plumbing is excellent."

District officials expect to spend $302,000 to install the modular classrooms. That money may come from fund balance or the realization of cost savings resulting from the closing of the school.

Connolly told the board that the district may realize about $150,000 in savings a year due to eliminating duplicate costs such as staffing and transportation.

Algonquin's ultimate demise came three weeks ago when the fire alarm malfunctioned. It was determined to cost $100,000 to replace the fire alarm system. Coupled with a $380,000 estimate to repair the roof and a $20,000 estimate for a boiler pump, the district was looking at spending close to $500,000 on the building.

The adjustments to the fire alarm system have been made to make it functioning through the end of the school year.

"We are at a tipping point," Connolly said of the board's decision in terms of balancing the long-term cost of keeping the building open.

The board grappled with the Band-Aid fixes during the two-hour debate. One fix came from Johnson Controls, which has a service contract with the school district.

The Brown Deer company offered a $5,000 temporary solution for the fire alarm system. Another temporary fix suggested was a $30,000 patch job on the roof. The total price tag to be able to use Algonquin next year would have been $55,000, which includes the $20,000 boiler pump.

Algonquin School houses the Early Childhood Special Education program, kindergarten and first grade. Students in second, third and fourth grade attend Dean School.

Principal Marirose Lucey, who oversees both elementary schools, said there is a litany of safety issues including the lack of a fence between the playground and parking lot, the proximity of the playground to a public park and deteriorating asphalt around the school.

"I have a (kindergarten student) in Algonquin. I put her in school and hold my breath. I just wince when I put her in school," said parent Tammy Watson, 3420 W. Bradley Road.

It is unclear where community groups, such as the senior citizen's club, and activities that call Algonquin home will be relocated.

Brendan O'Brien can be reached at (262) 446-6602 or bobrien@cninow.com.

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