La Crosse School Board votes to hold $194.7 million referendum to consolidate schools

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — The La Crosse School Board voted Monday night to allow the district to go to referendum for $194.7 million. Now, it will be up to voters to decide whether to consolidate La Crosse’s high schools.

The board voted 8-1 for the referendum.

If voters in the school district approve, the district will combine its two high schools into one, at the Trane site on the South Side.

That plan would take four years. Superintendent Aaron Engel said it would cost taxpayers about $8 more for every $100,000 of home value.

“It would be fully remodeled from top to bottom, but a lot of additions will be needed to meet our students’ needs,” Engel said.

The district hopes that combining Logan and Central schools would give students more opportunities all together at the site on Pammel Creek Road.

“By consolidating all of our students and teachers into one spot, we’d be able to offer electives that we currently can’t run,” Engel said.

In addition to the new high school, the district also plans to consolidate its three aging middle schools into Logan and Central’s existing buildings.

“One of the real assets of this plan is that it would immediately improve the educational environment for over half of our students,” Engel said.

At the meeting on Monday, residents spoke out against one big high school.

“I feel that if we combined our high schools we’ll let a lot of students slip through the cracks, and our community deserves better than that,” said Ashley Doering.

They argued against the combination, speaking in favor of neighborhood schools and short commutes.

“Keep the community in the community. If this school is taken away what is the community left with?” said Kara Doolittle, a North Side business owner.

Engel said neighborhood schools aren’t going away, and the commute time will not be very different.

“Right now, the average walk time for a student on the north side is about 16 minutes. That would turn into a 20 minute bus ride,” Engel said.

Ultimately, Engel said the referendum means an investment in what the district prioritizes: its people.

“This referendum is intended to create the savings that we need in the future to be able to invest in students and in staff,” Engel said.

Engel told News 8 Now that the district plans to host multiple public forums, beginning in a few weeks.

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