DE PERE - Area school districts say they're looking for creative ways to raise money for athletic field upgrades.It's a year when many school districts are going to referendums, asking taxpayers to fund renovation projects.De Pere schools are instead asking for community donations.The De Pere Redbird softball team hopes to get outside to practice soon.And if the fundraising effort called Project Redbird is a success, student athletes in four different outdoor sports could have upgraded fields.“Project Redbird is a capital campaign program aimed at improving the athletic fields and to also help the district for introducing more technology into the classroom,” said Superintendent Ben Villarruel.Villarruel says the district hopes to raise up to $3.5 million for new turf outside and new tablets in the classroom.Project Redbird organizers think asking the community for donations fits better for these needs than a referendum.“We do have a relatively affluent community and we know that. And that really tied into it. We knew that we had the resources to go into the community,” said Jim Growt, the co-chair of Project Redbird.But De Pere could need a referendum for other projects.“We anticipate in a year or two we may need to go out for a referendum for maintenance issues,” said Villarruel.Many school districts in our area have held or will hold referendums this year. That list includes districts like Howard-Suamico. It’s asking taxpayers for $3.5 million worth of upgrades to a community swimming pool at Lineville Intermediate.“We have an active older adult community, if you will, a community within a community, that uses it almost every morning of the week,” said Superintendent Damian LaCroix.LaCroix said his district also looks for ways to keep costs down for taxpayers. He said the district has applied for a private grant for new athletic turf.Howard-Suamico is also asking taxpayers for $13.4 million for school maintenance projects in a separate referendum question.Voters go to the polls April 1.De Pere schools say they are $1 million short of its goal. Once reached, renovations can start on the fields, provided warmer weather arrives.
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