Wausau School District brings more ‘specific’ information to ‘Community Engagement Sessions’

Published: Nov. 22, 2021 at 9:03 PM CST
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - The Wausau School District held its third community engagement session Monday night. The district came prepared with more specific information that people said they wanted from a previous meeting.

The district brought a breakdown of costs for some of the needs a possible referendum could address, which could also include combining elementary schools, which some board members said is almost inevitable.

“If we don’t move in the direction of merging, are we just kicking the can down the road? Because eventually, that’s what we’re going to have to do anyway,” clerk for the school board, Karen Vandenberg said.

Class sizes throughout the district’s elementary schools were the driving force behind the discussion Monday night. “It’s really a struggle for some staff members to feel good about coming to work when they’re sitting at 26, 29, and they have somebody with a class size of 13, so it’s putting a divide where it doesn’t need to be,” elementary school teacher, Sandy said.

The school district said it was to combine elementary schools it would help even out class sizes and keep them consistent throughout grade levels. “They would be gaining some additional students which would break that section out into 4 instead of three and those class sizes would go down, which would be exactly what we would be hoping for,” Director of Human Resources for the district, Tabatha Gundrum said.

It could also save the district money in the long run because it would cut down on the number of buildings it would have to keep up with. District Superintendent Keith Hilts explained many elementary schools weren’t anywhere near full enrollment.

He said merging schools is an option, and explained the ‘hypothetical scenario.’ “Rib Mountain, Hewitt-Texas and Lincoln would be merged with other schools, obviously those around them, right. We did a lot of work on which students, but that’s not the heart of the question tonight.”

The idea to merge schools was included in a referendum a few years ago but did not pass. The district said it may be forced to merge schools if the problem isn’t fixed.

“I just really encourage the board that if you do move forward with this, don’t do this on the backs of the [neediest] students in the district. It needs to be a full district-wide solution to the problem, not a solution based on one or two schools in the center of the city,” one former parent of the school district said.

The scenario Hilts explained was again, just hypothetical. The district used it as a way to get feedback on the idea and list the pros and cons if it were to go that route.

The district is still taking feedback on its needs, to submit input, click here.

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