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Madison School District officials say they would respect the historical significance of the architecture at district high schools if a referendum to fund renovations were approved.

Madison Metropolitan School District officials continued their referenda informational tour Tuesday with a presentation to the Grandparents United for Madison’s Public Schools.

The GRUMPS forum on the pair of referenda expected for the November 2020 ballot drew about 30 audience members to hear about the potential $315 million capital referendum and $36 million operating referendum split over four school years. Neither of those amounts is final, as the Madison School Board will have the final say and is expected to consider feedback from such forums in its decision.

The district held similar events at La Follette and East high schools last week and has plans for events at West and Memorial next week. The four comprehensive high schools make up $280 million of the expected costs — $70 million for each — along with moving the two alternative Capital High School locations into the Hoyt building and constructing a new elementary school in south Madison.

If the referenda were approved at the current funding level, property taxes would rise an estimated $135 per $100,000 of property value, according to the district. Of that, $66 would be for the operating referendum and $69 for the capital.

MMSD chief of staff Mike Hertting said both referenda are needed to keep the district moving toward its vision that every school is thriving.

“Since I’ve been in MMSD, our facilities have been tired,” Hertting said. “I hope we build a case for the community to understand what we want to do.”

Director of building services Chad Wiese said each of the comprehensive high schools would get a “complete reboot” on instructional spaces, as well as projects specifically for each building. He emphasized that they would respect buildings’ history and importance to the community in designing and constructing new spaces.

“We’re certainly going to make sure that we take into account the historic architecture,” Wiese said. “We want to build on the strengths in each of these communities and make sure, if anything, we highlight the historic nature of these sites.”

Specific projects include a fine arts addition and renovated theater at Memorial, additional classrooms at West as it is over capacity, a renovation of an outdoor area at La Follette known as “The Pit” into instructional space and an expansion of the Fourth Street entrance at East.

The operating referendum, meanwhile, is needed to maintain class sizes and personnel, Hertting told the group, as the district projects a $30 million deficit over the next three years. In past budget cuts, the district has tried to take from areas that don’t affect the classroom, he said, but, “You can only do that for so long.”

“It will be very difficult in this next budget cycle to fund our schools and not affect the class size or our personnel,” Hertting said. “It’s a big ask. We think that our schools and students are worthy of that investment.”

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Scott Girard is the local k-12 education reporter at the Cap Times. A Madison native, he joined the paper in 2019 after working for six years for Unified Newspaper Group. Follow him on Twitter @sgirard9.