Antigo School District Faces Challenges After Voters Say No to $24 Million Referendum

By: Madeline Anderson Email
By: Madeline Anderson Email

The Antigo school district administrator calls the results disappointing and surprising. On Tuesday, voters said no to a $24 million referendum to build one big elementary school and get rid of the seven existing ones. Around 5,000 people opposed it, while roughly 3,500 supported it.

Dr. Steven Smolek with the Unified School District of Antigo says they'll now have to rely on their fallback plan: close the four rural elementary schools, kindergarten through third grade will be at the three city schools, 4th and 5th grade will go to the middle school, and 8th grade to the high school. He says these changes should be implemented by the start of school next fall.

But they'll come at the price of students' education. Dr. Smolek says class sizes will grow, "No doubt because with the consolidation, you're still not going to have enough money with other cuts. That was why even with the first question [on the referendum] about consolidation and closing the schools, we needed a second question about additional revenue to try to maintain the programs we already have."

If voters had approved the $24 million referendum, the owner of a $100,000 home would have to pay around $180/year. He says that could be in part why people were against it. Elementary students in the rural areas would also have had to travel a significant distance to get to school every day. Yet Dr. Smolek says in the long run, the one school option would have been the most cost-effective and equitable solution to dealing with a decline in enrollment and cuts in state aid.

He says if there isn't a compromise, the entire community could suffer because people may see Antigo as a less desirable place to live and raise a family.

The school board will meet Tuesday to crunch numbers and find out if there are any alternatives.

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