West De Pere referendum, part 1: Class sizes increasing
By Lee Reinsch
EDITOR’S NOTE: The story is the first in a series that will examine the proposed referendums for the West De Pere School District in depth.
DE PERE – Those who live in the West De Pere School District, will be asked to vote on two school district referendum questions on Nov. 6.
The first question asks permission to borrow $64.8 million to build a new intermediate school, renovate three school buildings, make district-wide updates to infrastructure and to relocate athletic fields.
The second question asks permission to borrow $9.9 million to build a new indoor high school multipurpose/athletic facility.
Such a facility would include concession stands, restrooms, locker rooms and bleachers and improvements to the track.
The lion’s share of the first referendum issue, building a new intermediate school, would involve reconfiguring grades so class sizes would stay manageable over the next dozen or so years.
The new grade reconfiguration would change Hemlock Creek and Westwood Elementary schools to house kindergarten through fourth-grade students.
Currently, Hemlock Creek and Westwood Elementary schools house kindergarteners through fifth-grade students.
West De Pere Middle School would be renovated to accommodate grades seven and eight only.
Currently, students in grades six, seven and eight go to West De Pere Middle School.
Students in grades five and six would go to the new intermediate school.
“What we’re responding to is the fact that, over the past 13 years, the district has increased by 1,100 students,” said West De Pere School District Superintendent John Zegers.
The district expects another 1,150 students to be added to its enrollment total by 2030, Zegers said.
He attributes much of that growth to development in recent years to Lawrence, followed by development in Hobart.
“They (students) are coming from all over, but we do have a new development in the town of Lawrence that is assisting in our growth. There’s a lot of apartments and single-family dwellings being built over there,” he said. “That’s where we’re seeing most of our growth. At the present time, their building and renovations have gone to a new level, for sure.”
West De Pere’s ideal class size is between 20 and 25 students, depending on the grade level, Zegers said.
For K-3, it’s about 20 or the low twenties, and from grades 3 to 5, it’s up to 25 students.
“We really cherish that,” he said. “We want to keep that, and that’s been part of the motivation to this, to keep those sizes manageable.”
Manageable class sizes help teachers focus on the needs of individual students, Zegers said.
“You look at smaller class sizes being able to support greater student achievement,” he said.
He points out that supporting student achievement is one of the district’s four key initiatives. The other three are responding to student growth, continuing to be fiscally responsible and keeping facilities in tip-top condition.
As to the condition of the five public school buildings in the West De Pere School District, they’re in fantastic shape, according to Zegers.
“I think that’s something we can be very proud of,” he said. “We’re going to referendum for the purpose of dealing with our enrollment growth… But the addition as the result of a successful referendum would allow us to continue to keep our class sizes the way they are and also be able to meet the needs of upcoming enrollment bubbles that are going to exist between now and 2030.”