Voters to decide $30 million referendum for school overcrowding

Referendum would build new high school, remodel old building
Voters to decide $30 million referendum for school overcrowding

Voters will decide on April 1 what classrooms in the Wisconsin Dells School District will look like. School administrators know what the classrooms look like now and they want better for their students.

“We’ve had students be educated in hallways. We’ve had students that have been educated in closets at times or storage rooms at times. We’ve utilized modular classrooms and we now have an eighth-grade class that shifts between a high school building and a middle school building to receive their educational services,” said Terry Slack, superintendent for the district.

Last year, because a room was not available to teach music, the class was taught under a stairwell in a hallway using a portable whiteboard.

Currently both middle school and elementary school students are taught in the Spring Hill School. That building opened its doors in 1991 and today 220 more students are taught in that building than the day it opened.

“We’ve done what we can to make it work but it certainly is not ideal,” said Hugh Gaston, principal at Spring Hill School.

This year to relieve overcrowding at Spring Hill the eighth-grade class has been moved to the high school building for part of the day. But that has only added to the overcrowding at the high school, which was built in 1954. The high school was designed to teach 550 students, and 610 are now taking classes there.

The district is asking voters to pass a $30 million referendum that would allow for the construction of a new high school building. The money from the referendum would also fund the remodeling of the old high school, which would then be turned into the middle school. Spring Hill School would then become the elementary school.

“We’ve got a great plan that sets the table for success for the next 40 or 50 or 60 years and for the net effect of $16 per $100,000 (home value) after the governor’s property tax relief. I think it is the right thing to do for kids,” Slack said.

While there is no organized opposition to the referendum, passage is not a given. Polling in November showed the issue to be a tossup with voters.

Slack said if the referendum is not passed this April it will likely be brought back before voters in the fall because the overcrowding problem will not go away.