With a state-of-the-art new performance auditorium and athletic fields, and most buildings ranging in age from 28 to 40 years old, many residents of the Bayfield School District would say their school facilities are in good shape.
Except for Bayfield Primary School, say staff members there.
"I think it's just long past its life," Superintendent Troy Zabel said of the old facility. The oldest part of the school was Bayfield's original school building, dating to the 1920s.
"We have kids in a building that is way overcrowded, with significant issues - the age, technology - and safety issues that we've worked hard to mitigate, but it's just not a good situation for kids."
As periodic large classes come into the Bayfield district, the primary school has had to expand into classrooms that used to house Bayfield Middle School students back in the 1980s.
Bill Hesford, the assistant principal at Bayfield Elementary School, says he has parents who used to attend school there who are surprised the classrooms are being used again.
The primary school has 95 kindergarten students this year and 126 in first grade. It's these large classes that come through every two or three years that have required the school to move some classes into the west wing, which hadn't been used in the past several years.
This year's large group of first graders required seven sections of kindergarten last year, and next year's class coming in is another large group as well, based on the number enrolled in preschool at Bayfield Early Education Program, Hesford estimated.
While the kindergarten classes are grouped mostly together in the old school building on South Street, this year's first graders are divided between classes in the old east wing of the school and two modular classrooms. Another modular contains a classroom for special needs students.
Because the buildings have been used as a high school, then middle school, the bathrooms are too big for small children, and the boys have to climb onto platforms to use the urinals. "It's not bad," Hesford said of the school's aging infrastructure. "But it's not great either." When he goes to the new performing arts center, for example, he joked he can't help but think, "is this the same school district?"
He does worry about students having to cross the streets to get to the gym, lunchroom, art, music and Spanish classes. While the street is blocked off with barriers, there's nothing to stop a car from speeding through if that's what a driver really wants to do. Security is one of his main concerns at the aging facility, he said. Heating the old building also costs significantly more than in the new school buildings, as well.
Some sections of the old building, including two first-grade classrooms on the second floor, are not accessible to children or employees with disabilities.
"We want to have some growth potential for the future," Zabel said of a bond issue now being discussed (see related story).