TOWN OF WILSON — The Sheboygan Area School District purchased a 56,000-square-foot office building in the Town of Wilson for $2 million last month.
This summer, the Board of Education approved plans to spend $2 million to acquire the former Wilson Mutual Insurance Company office building for the purpose of relocating the school district’s Central Administrative Office from Downtown Sheboygan.
In late 2019, Wilson Mutual Insurance closed with employees working remotely and listed the building for sale. The asking price was $3.9 million for the nearly 11 acre property located at South Business Drive and Stahl Road in the Town of Wilson. The complex is located 1.3 miles south from Jackson Elementary School.
During a Board of Education meeting in August, Superintendent Seth Harvatine said this move would allow for the George D. Warriner charter schools to be housed in the new Central Administrative Office building. Harvatine added this would be a cost savings as the Warriner schools are currently leasing space at 712 Riverfront Drive. Some families expressed concerns that the building is not centrally located for Board of Education meetings. Harvatine explained that the school district will continue allowing virtual attendance and community input for the board meetings.
Currently, there is no Shoreline Metro bus service south of Weeden Creek Road but service could potentially be expanded to the area as companies move to the nearby SouthPointe Enterprise Campus. However, there is ample on-site parking with approximately 125 parking spaces for vehicles. South Business Drive was widened and reconstructed in 2017. Additional infrastructure improvements could be coming as the Stonebrook Crossing Subdivision is being built directly north of the newly acquired school district office.
Built in 1984, the office complex is two stories and in 2006, an 18,000-square-foot addition was constructed. A fitness center with showers was listed as a feature of the building as well as ample restrooms. The building is reportedly in overall good condition. Mark Boehlke, the district’s Assistant Superintendent of Business and Operational Services, noted there were some water issues on one wall that needed remediation. One of the custodial rooms had visible outside mold on the wall and has since been removed added Boehlke.
It is unclear if the property will be annexed into the City of Sheboygan from the Town of Wilson. Between 2017 and 2020, the Town of Wilson collected over $242,000 in property taxes from the insurance company that occupied the building. Property taxes are not collected on school district owned land.
A decision years in the making
The Sheboygan Area School District considered options over the last 25 years to relocate their Central Administrative Office to other locations in Sheboygan.
In 2007, school district Superintendent Joe Sheehan proposed purchasing the former Polar Ware company office building, located at 2806 North 15th Street, for $7 million to relocate administrative offices and build athletic fields. However, the Board of Education decided not to pursue those plans. The reason? High costs.
In late 2015, approximately 40 acres of land north of the former Polar Ware was gifted to the Sheboygan Area School District by the Walter Vollrath and David Sachse family. The district has owned the land ever since but nothing ever came of it. Sheehan said the land could possibly be used for athletic fields or even a new school.
Other options included constructing a new Central Administrative Office on school district owned vacant land at the corner of North Taylor Drive and Seaman Avenue. The property, originally referred to as the northwest school site, was split in half when North Taylor Drive was constructed. Land west of Taylor Drive became Field of Dreams while land east remains vacant. It is utilized as a snow dump in the winter by the city’s Department of Public Works.
Central has a long history
The Sheboygan Area School District’s administrative offices have been referred to as the Central Administrative Office, Central Support Facility and simply Central Office. How come? The name comes from where the administrative offices have been located for years: the old Central High School in Downtown Sheboygan.
Located at 830 Virginia Avenue, Sheboygan Central High School was built in the 1920s and has been home to the school district’s administrative offices ever since. After South High School was built and opened, Central High School closed but administrative staff remained. The building housed Lakeshore Technical Institute (LTI), now called Lakeshore Technical College, until 1974 when they moved to a new campus in Cleveland.
In 1953, it was reported the building, which was just 30 years old at the time, was in excellent condition but had become outmoded and inadequate for high school uses. It was too costly to remodel the building and the school district considered building a new all-city high school in the area of Kohler Memorial Drive and Erie Avenue. Those plans were dropped and South High School was built instead at South 12th Street and Washington Avenue.
Central also housed the Sheboygan Area Credit Union for a period of time as well as the city’s Senior Center before it was relocated to make room for additional classrooms for students with learning disabilities. Today, the building is home to the Community Recreation Department and two charter high schools: Étude and Central.
Mllions of dollars have been spent over the years for repairs and remodeling the building.