La Crosse School Board members at odds over consolidating high schools

LA CROSSE (WKBT) — Board members are at odds over the La Crosse School District’s position that it does not have the money or students to keep two high school buildings.

In June, the district conducted a survey. Out of nearly 6,000 responses, 60% supported spending $194.7 million to build a new high school located at the former Trane building site.

“We chose the proposal the community said was the best option,” said Juan Jimenez, the school board president.

The district says it needs to consolidate because student enrollment is declining. During the past five years, enrollment fell by nearly 500 students or 7.5%, according to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

“We are going to be losing students in the next five to 10 years,” Jimenez said.

If the referendum does not pass, the district will move ahead with consolidation, Superintendent Aaron Engel says, and all future high school students will go to Central High School.

The board has been transparent about consolidating schools from the beginning, Jimenez said.

“We have been very clear in my opinion we have to do something with facilities,” he said.

But other board members disagree. Board member Rob Abraham resigned and walked out during Monday night’s board meeting, attributing his departure to “serious concerns of the future of La Crosse School District based in large part on the leadership of Superintendent Engel.”

In his statement, Abraham said Engel’s decision to use Central as an alternative building is similar to a dictatorship.

“Wherever you stand on consolidating our high schools and in fact our middle schools, it’s inexcusable to present this poor alternative to place pressure on the referendum,” Abraham said at the meeting.

But Jimenez said Central is just one of the possibilities on the table.

“There are things that could happen beyond our control that may not require us to do certain things,” he said.

People should consider all their options in November, Abraham said, adding, “Vote thoughtfully and carefully.”

If the referendum passes, all future middle school students will go to Central and Logan high schools. If it doesn’t pass, all high schoolers will go to Central, and all middle schoolers will go to Logan.

Recent News Headlines from News 8 Now 

La Crosse residents express concern over vandalism, thefts in downtown parking garages

Wisconsin pumping $8 million into state’s EMS providers

Investigator who floated decertification of Wisconsin presidential vote later backed off

Redistricting may have changed polling locations for some Onalaska residents