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West De Pere School District discusses referendum

By Rich Palzewic
Staff Writer

DE PERE – With an influx of students set to find their way into the West De Pere School District in the upcoming years, school officials looked at adding more space at the regular school board meeting Tuesday, Aug. 21, in the high school library.

According to district numbers, over the past 13 years (2004-2017), the district has grown by more than 1,100 students and is projected to grow by an additional 1,150 resident students over the next 13 years (2017-2030).

Based on the projected growth, and if no additional capacity is added, the district will be approximately 100 students over capacity by 2020 and almost 900 students over capacity by 2030.

Based on those numbers, the district will hold a referendum Nov. 6, asking voters to approve almost $65 million.

The majority of the dollars would be for a new intermediate school ($35.4 million), which would be built next to the current middle school and for additions and renovations at the high school ($20.8 million).

A separate question will be seeking $9.9 million to construct an indoor multi-purpose facility addition onto the high school and for stadium improvements, including expanding bleachers, sprint lanes to the existing track and a concession/restroom/storage building.

“The studies have been done and it shows that we need to do this,” said West De Pere Superintendent John Zegers. “It’s a good problem to have because it means we are growing. Even better, it can be done at a minimal tax increase to residents.”

If both questions are approved, the tax implications on a $100,000 property would be approximately $55 per year.

School officials urged residents to attend two open houses being held to help answer any questions they might have.

The high school and middle school will each hold an open house on Oct. 17 and Oct. 25, respectively.

If passed, planning would begin immediately, with a projected completion date for most projects set for the 2020-21 school year.

In other news, it was reported that incidents of bullying in the district have decreased dramatically over the past few years.

“After looking at the data from this year, we had two incidents reported district wide,” said Amy Schuh, director of student services. “The year before we had six reported and two years ago we had nine. My suspicion is that we have placed a high emphasis on positive relationships with students, being aware of what’s going on in the building and being more visible in the hallways. We have been proactive when it comes to this and we have been able to intervene very quickly when it has come to our attention.”

Russ Gerke, high school principal, also announced a proposed partnership with Bellin College where students could take a five-credit anatomy/physiology class where they would pay a reduced rate compared to what it would cost at an actual college.

“For most of our students that would take this five-credit course, it would mean that they wouldn’t have to take an additional class when they got to college,” Gerke said. “We’d have a professor come to the school on a rotation basis. It was also discussed that we could possibly take our students to Bellin College and use some of their resources. It’s a win-win situation because the college gets some money for it and our students – or parents – also save money.”

Gerke mentioned that most of the agreements with the colleges statewide set a per-credit price of $100 if students take a college course while in high school.

Immediately after the monthly meeting, the district held its annual meeting in the auditorium, with finances being the main topic of discussion.

At the annual meeting, business manager Kevin Hanson laid out the projected growth that the district will see and what those costs will entail.

“The school district is financially sound,” said Hanson. “If we continue to maximize our resources and minimize expenses, while increasing student growth, our forecast will be likely more favorable than projected.”

The 2018-19 school district projected budget will be just over $39 million.

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