Muskego - It's now nearly full speed ahead on building a new middle school, while the way is completely clear to enlarge Mill Valley Elementary School, two projects that voters in the Muskego-Norway School District approved in the April 2016 referendum.
The Muskego Plan Commission gave its blessings to building a middle school on North Cape Road for 750 students and to enlarging Mill Valley, W191 S6445 Hillendale Drive, to a target of 550 students. Plans call for both to be open for the 2018-19 school year.
School officials hope middle school construction can start in April. Building will take more than a year, stretching through August 2018.
However, school and city officials are still negotiating provision of water and sewer service for the new middle school. While the matter is due to come up at the next public works committee meeting, school officials will go out for construction bids.
Alderman Neil Borgman who sits on the plan commission said the school district and its architect had done an exceptional job of presenting plans so that all questions were answered.
"They have really done a job and their homework," he said.
School Board President Rick Petfalski said, "It's nice to get moving on a community dream that started quite a while ago."
The middle school will be built just north of of where Forest Home Avenue meets North Cape Road and will sit some distance south of McShane Drive. The address will be W124 S8009 North Cape Road.
The school, that still must be named, will be built on top of a hill, with two stories of classrooms -- one at the top of the hill and one at the bottom back of the hill. Visitors to the school will come first to the middle school office and student services offices in the front circular portion of the school.
To the left will be what officials are calling the encore wing where band, chorus, art, foods classes and technical education classes including STEM classes will be held. Those rooms will be on the east side of a courtyard. On the other side of the courtyard will be the top story of academic classrooms.
Those classrooms will extend to the north end of the school. They will be on the western side of the second courtyard that is planned.
If a visitor turns right after entering, he or she will first pass the cafeteria on the right, the second courtyard on the left and then come to the gym. The cafeteria will have a view of the courtyard.
If the visitor walks straight in through the front door, he or she will come to stairs leading to the library. That will be the hub or centerpiece of the academic area. It connects with the academic classrooms on either side of it.
Scoured for ideas
Muskego-Norway officials and architects toured numerous schools, seeking the kinds of features that work well, said Jeremiah Johnson, buildings and grounds supervisor.
""We interviewed staff at the other sites to find the best of the best ideas," he said.
One of the things he said he likes about the plan is the role of the library.
"Organizing around the library is a neat theme," he said.
Planners also used Lake Denoon Middle School as a guide, Johnson said.
"Because it has served us well," he said.
The plan commission approved the middle school plan despite a petition from neighbors who were worried that their rural surroundings would become somewhat hectic with a middle school for 750 students built near them. Muskego-Norway School Board member Chris Buckmaster who represents the schools on the plan commission abstained from voting on the school building, site and operations plan.
The plan commission found persuasive the conclusion of consultant Traffic Analysis and Design Inc. that North Cape and surrounding roads are capable of handling the traffic that will peak at 8 a..m and 3 p.m. The school district had the study done at the request of the city of Franklin. The results were reviewed by Franklin, Muskego and Waukesha and Milwaukee counties.The firm concluded that most of the traffic would come from McShane Drive north of the school.
The petition was signed by 38 residents of Muskego and Franklin. North Cape goes into Franklin, and although the middle school would be built in Muskego, Franklin neighbors worried about increased traffic, too.
The petition states: “We, the undersigned, are concerned citizens who urge our leaders to act now to oppose any entrance to the new middle school off of North Cape Road. The traffic impact to our neighborhood and our new Franklin road will be dangerous and obnoxious. The result of this will be hundreds of cars and a fleet of buses daily creating undue traffic congestion.”
There was no discussion by the plan commission of the petition. It was not forwarded to commission members because it wasn't filed with Muskego, Mayor Kathy Chiaverotti said. Road access jurisdiction lies with Milwaukee County, an arrangement made in recognition that North Cape Road is a county highway and the vast majority of it lies within Milwaukee County. Some time ago, Waukesha County transferred jurisdiction of the sliver in Waukesha County to Milwaukee County, she said.
Addressing the residents' worries about the potential impact on the area, she said after the meeting, "Any impact to the area for use would have been discussed at the time of rezoning."
That pretty much tied the city's hands.
"Once zoning is in place, the use is allowed," she said. "However, the plan commission can work with neighbors to address concerns, and did so in this case with the only neighbor who raised a concern."
Indeed, although 38 residents from the two communities signed the petition, only one person, a Muskego resident living just south of the school, came to the commission meeting. She was concerned about traffic noise. The commission responded by requiring trees between the parking lot and homes to the south. She appeared satisfied with that, Chiaverotti said.
The commission did make some tweaks to the middle school plan.
Besides requiring planting evergreens at the parking lot to buffer it from neighbors, it required air intakes on the roof to be screened. Also, to satisfy concerns that cars might slide off the entrance drive into a retention pond, the architects agreed to move the drive away from the pond.