Germantown considers early childhood learning center on Mequon Road

July 15, 2014

Germantown — Music students at Rockfield Elementary School may soon have a classroom back.

The music classes, currently held in the library, may be able to return to a classroom setting if a plan to lease space for the district's early childhood education program moves forward.

Currently held at Rockfield, the program in 2014-15 is projected to serve as many as 45 students between the ages of 3 and 5 years old, a number Director of Business and Auxiliary Services Ric Erickson said is "just too many" to house at Rockfield.

"Coupled with the space problems we have to begin with at Rockfield, we've been looking for sites elsewhere that could house the program," Erickson said.

On Monday, July 14, the board authorized Erickson to begin negotiations on leasing a 10,000-square-foot building that formerly housed Cake & Bake. There is not room for the program to move within another elementary school in the district either, Erickson explained, adding that the other schools are "just as packed."

No dollar amounts have been released, as Erickson said the process is still in the beginning stages. He has been consulting with the police and fire departments, the bus company, teachers, and an architect in recent months to go over the safety requirements and possible design of the site, which would likely feature classrooms, a play area and a private area for occupational therapy and physical therapy.

"It's not an ideal location or situation by any stretch of the imagination," said board member Bruce Warnimont, who chairs the board's building committee, "but it can hopefully be made to work."

The move could enable some things to return to normal at Rockfield, according to Director of Human Resources Cynthia Coley, including the music classes and other student work that currently takes place in the hallways. Commonly mistaken for 4-year-old kindergarten, the program serves young children with special education needs.

"It's definitely exciting," said early childhood education teacher Nicole Leffler, following the board's vote. "It will be a lot better than what we're working with now."

While the district does not offer 4-year-old kindergarten, 5-year-old kindergarten is offered at each of the district's elementary schools.

The hope is to reach a deal in time to open the early childhood learning center in time for the 2014-15 school year, but the board will need to hold a separate special meeting to authorize moving forward with a formal lease agreement. In the meantime, the district will also need to work with the village for approval, as the proposed center would be within a commercial zoning area.

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