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Did Patrick McKee just save the district's restructuring plan?
McKee's plan would save money, keep many of the buildings the same and prevent the chaos parents are concerned about
Members of the Wausau School Board made it clear Monday night: They’re getting a LOT of pushback against a new plan to restructure the district’s schools.
That started from the beginning, and it hasn’t stopped as the district continues through the process of working through its plan. A brief summary:
Here is the pipeline under the proposal: Early education centers (birth to five, essentially day care) → 4K with five fewer elementary schools → grades 5-7 in Horace Mann and John Muir → Junior High (at the Wausau East building) includes grades 8-9 → Senior High would include grades 10-12 (at the Wausau West building).
Under the plan, Wausau West would undergo an expansion to accommodate the additional students. That would cost $10 million. (If it were at East instead it would cost $38 million.)
That $10 million comes from redirected referendum money (which is saved because instead of improving some buildings they would be closed).
The new high school would adopt Wausau West’s flex mod scheduling system. Basically it means that schedules vary; instead of the bell ringing and every student getting up to go somewhere else, it’s staggered with unique time frames.
The district would include early learning centers that serve birth to five-year-olds. That would help both the staff and the public find child care, which is in crisis in Marathon County.
The Wausonian did a breakdown of the Wausau School District Restructuring plan in January.
But things change, it’s gotten even more complicated than previously expected. Most recently, the district learned that Wausau West will need at least four new science labs to accommodate all the science students it will have (and district officials point out they probably need those new labs either way.
For those opposed to the plan, Board member Patrick McKee might have just saved the day. Because the plan, according to his research, will no longer save the district more than $31 million over a ten-year period - it will actually cost the district a little more than $1 million compared to the status quo.
McKee’s plan, based on his pro forma projections (which would need to be independently verified), would save the district about $14 million over 10 years and would eliminate a lot of the issues people have with the current restructuring plan.
Under the new plan, the district would
Keep the high schools as they are, housing ninth to 12th grade, and implement a new scheduling system that would allow in person and virtual instruction
John Muir and Horace Mann would remain middle schools
Hire a third party consultant to figure out the best options around the new elementary schools
Scrap the partnership with the YMCA for child care and instead use those funds to keep buildings open and provide subsidies
Complete the referendum projects on elementary schools that wouldn’t be consolidated, and then canceling its contract with Nexus.
The new plan would eliminate the additional $750,000 in busing costs from 10 new bus routes — and eliminate the need for up to 90 minute bus rides for some kids. It also eliminates costs with branding, mascots, and numerous other expenses related to the restructure.
And, McKee argues, it would provide a more clear expectation of the future for parents, staff and students, while helping to restore trust with the community.
McKee called the current plan a “field of dreams” approach. Right now, the district says it is losing more than 250 to open enrollment (the difference between students leaving the district through open enrollment and those entering). McKee says he doesn’t see that changing under the new plan.
Those opposed to the current restructuring plan are applauding the move. But, right now it’s just an idea. The school board will likely bring it up at its next meeting.
That relies on School Board President James Bouche to put it on the next board meeting’s agenda.
Bouche seemed receptive to the idea, praising McKee’s work on the proposal and the numbers behind it. The Wausonian will be watching to see if the proposal makes it on the next board’s agenda.
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