Superintendent’s Corner …

Getting proactive with facilities challenges at MAPS

The Merrill Area Public Schools (MAPS) will be coming to the voters on April 2 with a capital referendum to address facility needs in our district. I encourage everyone to become informed on this subject, as it has long-term implications for our district and our community.
Here’s the short version to serve as a starting point: discussions began over a year and a half ago regarding what should become of Jefferson Elementary School; a building that became vacant as a result of declining enrollment and school consolidation. When I became Superintendent, I wanted to study that issue very closely since, once a building like Jefferson is sold, MAPS can’t bring it back. As part of that process, we wanted to study the state of all of our buildings to see if Jefferson was even the one that should remain vacant or be sold. Condition assessments, repair and maintenance projections, and future costing estimates were done on each of our buildings and the result was quite sobering. Next, we invited community members to join us for three separate focus groups last summer to get into our schools, study the data regarding the condition of our various buildings, and to come up with some solutions that were cost effective. Everyone in the community was invited to attend and the discussions were very productive. The overarching question was: “How can we make best use of our best facilities?”
The community groups proposed and studied numerous alternatives and landed on a solution that remodels existing spaces and that will take several buildings offline. Essentially the plan calls for the renovation and update of Jefferson Elementary School and to move the Pine River Head Start and 4K program, the Northern Achievement Center program, and the Bridges Virtual Academy into the renovated Jefferson Elementary. In addition, the plan calls for renovating underused spaces at Merrill High School and moving the Central Office operations into that space. Finally, the district maintenance building would be replaced. This plan would take four buildings – many of which are well past their useful life – offline (sold or demolished), would save millions of dollars over the next 10 years, and would make best use of our best facilities.
There’s a cost to those significant renovations, however, so a survey went out to every resident in the district to help gauge support for the project and the $16 million referendum that would be needed to make it happen (impact on the taxpayer is expected to be 32 cents per $1,000 of property). Response to the survey was very encouraging with approximately 60% of residents showing support for both the plan and the referendum that would be needed to make it happen. Given that high level of support, MAPS decided to proceed with the concept by taking it to the voters on April 2.
You will hear a lot about this proposal between now and April 2, and there are many opportunities to learn more. We will be making presentations to local townships, municipalities, and service clubs. MAPS will hold two information nights (Feb. 19 at 6 p.m. at Jefferson Elementary and March 25 at 6 p.m. at Merrill High School). I will be hosting several “Coffee with the Superintendent” gatherings at the Central Office (Feb. 29 and March 7 at 7 a.m.). Information will be coming to you in the mail, and our webpage will be continually updated. You can find all of the referendum information, as well as detailed information regarding the facilities plan at Also, the MAPS Facebook page will be updated regularly with information regarding this topic. Of course, you can call me directly at any time with questions at 715.536.4581.
I encourage you to become informed on this important topic and to become engaged in the subject, as we truly have an opportunity to make the best use of our best buildings, to gain efficiencies by taking several unused buildings offline, and to save significant operations dollars for years to come. Go Bluejays!

Shannon Murray

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