Staff cites space, more students as need for Sparta Area School District referendum

SPARTA, Wis. (WKBT) - When voters in the Sparta Area School District head to the polls on April 3, they'll be voting on two questions that amount to a $32.5 million district project. If both questions are approved, the school district will build a new elementary school and renovate four of its existing schools. 

Staff members have seen incredible growth, with more military families in the area, people moving in from other communities and a good local economy.

"In the low numbers, we had about 2,550 [students]. Our most recent count, we had 3,117 students," said Dr. Amy Van Deuren, district administrator. 

But the old buildings weren't designed to meet these numbers.

"Space is really limited. Everybody's become creative in different ways," said Toby Oswald, principal of Lawrence-Lawson Elementary School.

Space is a big issue, especially in the elementary schools. 

"We've put some of the other departments in closets, just because there hasn't been space for them to have an office," Oswald said. 

The first question would grant the district $28.5 million to build an entirely new elementary school.

"The second question is for an additional $4 million. That would give us some updates to other elementary space," Van Deuren said.

If voters approve both questions, it would allow the district to move around other grade levels. That would free up room for about 800 more students, according to the superintendent. Approval of the new school would be a good place to start, however.

"Whether or not the community agrees that we need the additional updates, we really need that elementary space," Van Deuren said.

As a former Spartan himself, Oswald wants to provide the same great educational experience he had growing up. 

"Having a new space doesn't make it effective, but having spaces that work effectively are more important for us. That's really important. That's what we're trying to do with the referendum," Oswald said.  

The district is working on finding a potential property for a new school. If the first question is passed, the new elementary school would open in the fall of 2020. Renovations would start within the next six months. 

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