As the Verona Area School District prepares to open a new high school in September, it has updated its rules for public use of its facilities.

The school board approved new facility usage guidelines at its Monday, Feb. 3, meeting with only one change from its Jan. 28 review of the documentation.

To address concerns the district wasn’t allowing organizations enough time to put in requests for large-scale events – such as tournaments using the gymnasium and performances in the Performing Arts Center – the rental policy will allow those type of events to reserve space before the normal start of the application window, which is up to six months out.

Events eligible for early application could include athletic performances, Performing Arts Center reservations and craft fairs, the policy outlines, as well as any regional, state or national events. Any events would be required to be approved by district facility and event scheduling coordinator Jeanne Ennis, as well as the district athletic director, the school’s principal, facility director and the maintenance and grounds director.

For all other events, request forms for facility reservations will start four to six months in advance, depending on the time of year. District administrators considered that as a way to decrease the amount of “bumping” of community groups out a site in favor of another group with higher priority.

The new school is set to open in September as part of a $180 million construction project that will shift five other schools to new locations. It includes all new athletic fields on the 161 acre site, as well as a 343,000 square foot building that features two pools, a 2,500-seat field house, a greenhouse and performing arts center.

The existing high school will retain its current facilities but will become the site of Badger Ridge Middle School.

Under the new policy, which covers all district facilities, district-sponsored activities such as sporting events are the highest priority, followed by municipal recreation programs for the cities of Verona and Fitchburg, which have contractual agreements with the district. Next would be student interest groups, such as clubs, organizations with more than half their memberships composed of students, then other non-profit groups and users.

Ennis told the board at its Jan. 28 meeting the updated rules were meant to create an equitable system that allows for transparency in granting facility usage.

Reservations for all district facilities over the summer months will be reduced, Ennis said, because of construction at the new high school and renovations that will be happening at the current high school and Badger Ridge Middle School to prepare for school site shifts taking place at the start of September.

Email reporter Kimberly Wethal at kimberly.wethal@wcinet.com and follow her on Twitter @kimberly_wethal.