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The foundation, along with electrical and plumbing work has been completed for the new White Lake school being built along the south side of town. (Matt Gade / Republic)

White Lake superintendent hopes building project will draw more families to district

WHITE LAKE — Change is on the horizon in White Lake.

Two months into construction, the foundation of the district's new, $5.8 million school has begun to take shape. And White Lake Superintendent Bob Schroeder is already looking forward to the final product, set to be complete in time for the 2018-19 school year.

"I can't imagine what it will look like when it's done," Schroeder said Tuesday looking over the construction site. "With so many of our staff having been here for several years, it's a nice reward for them — they stayed here so long and now they'll get this."

Similar in size and structure, the new school will house pre-kindergarten through 12th grade and sits directly east of the Aurora Brule Nursing Home, north of Old Highway 16. Additionally, it will house a city day care, full-sized gymnasium and community weight room. And the building is built on a leap of faith from administration and school board.

With enrollment for the 2016-17 school year recorded at 110 students K-12, and a recent history of a slight downward trend, the White Lake district is flirting with the state-mandated law requiring reorganization should enrollment drop below 100 students. But Schroeder said he's hoping the building project will draw more families into the district, with room for housing development on multiple sides.

"We're trying to find a creative way to get more housing and new people in," Schroeder said. "What we're seeing is a lot of younger generations moving back to White Lake, and I'm not sure what's drawing them, but I'm not going to argue it."

And though a boost in enrollment would be an added bonus, the school board opted to move forward with the new school to alleviate issues the current building is presenting due to aging infrastructure and heating and cooling systems. The current school building was constructed in 1938 and it's unclear what its future holds. Schroeder said the hope is for the building to continue to be used in some capacity, possibly as apartments.

The project is being funded through a general obligation bond that voters approved in June 2016, White Lake School District Business Manager Toni Aisenbrey said. And that wasn't the first time residents showed support for the project.

In November 2015, the district held an election to approve the use of capital outlay certificates for the project, Aisenbrey said, with the public voting 241-77 in favor. But alterations to how capital outlay can be used by school districts forced the White Lake to readjust its plan, opting to instead fund the project through the general obligation bond. A second election was held with a 221-123 vote in favor of the project.

The repeated and continued support speaks volumes about the community's commitment to education, Schroeder said. And for Schroeder, who has been with the White Lake district for 24 years, the progressive-mindedness is especially sweet.

"The community is very supportive of the school right now," Schroeder said. "We put it in their hands and they decided they want to keep moving forward. It's reassuring to me that the entire community is behind us and that kids will have the opportunity to graduate from White Lake School."

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