Parents voice concern at meeting to discuss proposed school consolidation

A series of meetings are being held to discuss the proposal to consolidate La Crosse's two public high schools.

LA CROSSE (WKBT) — The first meeting to discuss the proposed consolidation of La Crosse’s two public high schools was held at Lincoln Middle School Wednesday night.

The $194.7 million proposal would allow for a new, consolidated high school to be built at the former Trane headquarters site on La Crosse’s south side.

“We would do a full remodel of the existing building, but we would be able to keep the core structure,” said Superintendent of the La Crosse School District Aaron Engel.

Engel added Wednesday that the Trane site would receive “significant” additions to include space for a performing arts center, as well as career and technical labs, among many other upgrades.

Under the proposal, once the remodeling of the old Trane building is complete, La Crosse middle schoolers would move into the buildings of Logan and Central High Schools.

During the meeting to discuss the consolidation Wednesday night, Engel took questions for about two hours.

At the meeting, parents voiced concerns about how the proposed consolidation would impact busing, traffic, taxes and a litany of other issues.

Retired La Crosse Teacher Ronald Sunne was in attendance. He said the amount of money required for the proposed project is a concern, along with the location for the consolidated school.

“I think the biggest problem is still going to be the price tag and I think the other major problem is still the location,” he said.

Sunne feels that the former Trane headquarters is not easily accessible from certain portions of the city.

“It’s just not an easy place to get to, especially if you’re on the North side of La Crosse,” he added.

The meeting Wednesday night to discuss the proposal came after letters were sent out to parents regarding the project. Engel has said that the La Crosse school district does not have enough money to keep two high schools open.

In a letter Tuesday, Engel suggested that consolidation would not be immediate or even a guarantee and that it could take 5 to 10 years if the referendum passed.

This differed from a previous letter, in which he implied that the district would send all future high school students to Central High if the referendum did not pass in the fall.

Engel has pointed to declining enrollment, budget deficits and aging buildings as reasons to support the consolidation effort.

The La Crosse School District has seen a decline of 793 students since 2011, according to a document from the district.

A list of future informational sessions to discuss the proposed school consolidation can be found here.