With new facilities opening this fall, the Verona Area School District is considering updating the policies and pricing that determine who gets priority to use district buildings and for how much.
Administrators introduced draft updated rules to the school board at its Monday, Jan. 27, meeting. District facility and event scheduling coordinator Jeanne Ennis provided board members with new user group priority categories, a reservation system designed to ensure fairness and timelines created to allow district events to take priority.
The board plans to vote on the updated facility policies and rules at its Monday, Feb. 3, meeting.
Ennis said her goal was to make sure the district’s process in granting facility uses was both transparent and equitable.
“It was just to make sure that everything is consistent,” she said. “We’re just making sure it’s available to everyone in the district.”
Among the added facilities that will be available once the new high school opens in September are two pools, a football/track field, a gymnasium, baseball, softball and soccer fields and a new performing arts center.
One of the most significant changes is determining how to rank requests.
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.
As a way to decrease “bumping” community groups and organizations out of a site for the priority of another group, the district is proposing to start accepting request forms four to six months in advance, depending on the time of year. Staff requests will be accepted as early as possible to ensure priority scheduling.
“It’ll give staff a good idea of when they need to get their requests in to alleviate these instances where we have to bump community members,” Ennis said.
At least one board member was concerned about the shortened timeline for requesting space.
Meredith Stier Christensen, who owns the Karate America Verona with her husband, Jeff, said planning events requires a confirmed date more than a half-year in advance. The new guidelines would not allow for that.
She encouraged Ennis to talk to community groups and organizations who frequently use district facilities to get their feedback on the timelines.
“These timelines will be impossible to plan larger events,” she said.
Ennis reassured Stier Christensen that district or site administration could overrule the guidelines if requests for large events are brought to them prior to the window.
“We don’t want to turn away these really great opportunities for the community to come in and do bigger events,” Ennis said.