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    Wausau School Board approves elementary school task force

    By Shereen Siewert,

    2024-06-11
    https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=2TCE1b_0to8nKW800
    Photo by Element5 Digital on Pexels.com

    Damakant Jayshi

    The Wausau School Board on Monday approved a 45-member task force to study enrollment projections and the future of elementary school buildings in the district.

    The study of the elementary school footprint will likely result in restructuring and closing some schools.

    Board members stressed that they do not just want a demographic study from the task force but recommendations on the next steps that the board should take. The task force, whose first meeting will be held on Wednesday, is expected to submit its report with recommendations by the end of the year.

    The district hired MD Roffers Consulting to coordinate the task force formation process and its charges. Representative Mark Roffers on Monday shared details of the process, the task force charges and the timeline, among other specifics.

    In November 2023, the Wausau School Board reversed a decision to combine Wausau East and West and move fifth-grade students from elementary schools into middle schools. As part of the original restructuring plan, at least five of the 13 elementary schools would be merged or closed. But that plans was shelved after fierce opposition from the community.

    Interest in the task force is strong. Superintendent Keith Hilts said they heard from 79 people and, following Roffers’ recommendation, district officials chose 45 members.

    Hilts said they chose three groups: people with children in the district, people with children not in the district, and staff. They made sure there were 15 people from each group. Then, they used a random number generator to select names. One selected member withdrew after learning the names of those serving would be made public.

    The task force must evaluate and recommend preferred elementary school facility options, advise on whether to reduce the number of elementary schools in the district and how to do so, consider student enrollment projections, and decide if four-year-old kindergarten should be included in all elementary schools.

    The criteria for evaluating school buildings’ conditions and locations will be developed and shared during the summer, based on the consulting firm’s recommendations.

    Board member Pat McKee clarified that the task force’s recommendations are not final; the ultimate decision rests with the board. He said the board will not close the schools based solely on the task force’s recommendation, a point that must be understood.

    Lance Trollop said the board should guide the task force on what’s important, like not losing the funding for the Achievement Gap Reduction Program. “I want the task force to consider that…they can’t make a recommendation that loses AGR funding,” he said.

    The AGR program of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction requires schools to adopt at least one of three strategies: one-on-one tutoring, instructional coaching for teachers, or maintaining small class sizes and providing professional development on small group instruction.

    The program also requires schools to set goals to reduce the achievement gap between low-income students and their peers in the same grade and subject statewide.

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