Some La Crosse School District buildings likely closing in the future

The district's enrollment is declining and its buildings are aging; leaders say five of them are more than 80 years old

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – Enrollment in the School District of La Crosse is declining.

In nearly 20 years, leaders say it has lost more than 1,500 students.

According to the latest enrollment numbers, just over 6,114 students are enrolled for this academic year, down 132 from last year.

This is creating future challenges for the district. Declining enrollment and aging buildings are why school leaders are seriously considering closing some of the current buildings. So the district is deciding its future outlook by listening to the opinions of La Crosse taxpayers.

The future of some of La Crosse’s oldest school buildings is in doubt.

But some parents question the district’s proposal of closing some of the current structures.

“It does cause a lot of difficulty for students to have to change the things they’ve been doing for years,” La Crosse parent John White said.

Others, though, are looking forward to new beginnings.

“When you have declining enrollment, it’s just too much money to maintain all those facilities,” La Crosse parent Jorge Beltran said.

The School District of La Crosse gathers these thoughts to help them plan the district’s future.

Leaders sent out a survey to community members on Monday asking if they support the district consolidating some of its current buildings.

“If we’re going to do big things with our facilities, we know we need the public’s support,” Superintendent Aaron Engel said.

Engel says there are many options on the table. One option would be to close an elementary school or two. Emerson and Spence are the district’s two oldest elementary schools, and, according to the survey, would cost a combined $7 million to maintain.

Another solution is closing all three middle schools and moving middle-schoolers into the district’s two high schools, and a new high school would be built.

Engel says keeping all the schools won’t work.

“The consolidation and closure is a little sad, but would also save us the necessary money to make the finances work as we move forward,” Engel said. “At a minimum, we’re going to be closing Hogan Administrative Center.”

The district loses money every time enrollment drops.

“It (enrollment is) really driven by birth rates in our school district,” Engel said. “And those have been declining across the state and across the country.”

Some people like having neighborhood schools.

“They have it organized fairly conveniently for students to come from where they live,” White said.

But school leaders say having too many buildings takes away money to invest in educating the students.

“Having excess buildings hampers our ability to give kids the best possible education,” Engel said.

Engel says the deadline for taking the survey is Nov. 18.

At that point, school leaders will take feedback from the surveys and present it to the school board.

Engel says the board will then decide whether taxpayers will need to vote in a referendum on a new building project or maintenance.

If there is a referendum, Engel says it would take place during an election next November.

Recent News Headlines from News 8 Now  
Viroqua nursing home transitioning to Community Based Residential Facility 
‘Remembering Our Fallen’ exhibit returning to La Crosse 
Remembering Nic: Ettrick family raises awareness about mental health after suicide of UW-La Crosse student 
Amber Alert: Suspect vehicle found; Onalaska toddler still missing