By Lee Reinsch
EDITOR’S NOTE: The story is the second in a series that will examine the proposed referendums for the West De Pere School District in depth.
DE PERE – The addition of an intermediate school in the West De Pere School District would help spread the present and, more importantly, future student population out over five buildings instead of four.
Superintendent John Zegers said he feels confident taxpayers will see the need for the boost to the school system, especially because the school portion of their property taxes is slated to go down again soon.
“One thing people are aware of is that our mill rate has gone down considerably over the last six or seven years,” Zegers said. “At one point, it was $11.30 (per $1,000 of assessed property value), and our current is $9.98 (per $1,000 of assessed property value) with a decrease coming in December.”
In a nutshell, the two referenda ask for 1. $64.8 million to build a new intermediate school and make upgrades at three schools in the district; and 2. $9.9 million for a new multi-purpose facility and stadium improvements at West De Pere High School.
Of the $64.8 million requested in the first question, $35.4 million would be earmarked for a new intermediate school to house students in grades five and six.
Currently, fifth-graders attend the K-5 Westwood and Hemlock Creek elementary schools, and sixth-graders attend West De Pere Middle School along with seventh- and eighth-graders.
The new two-story intermediate school would be built on property adjoining the middle school.
It would would include special education classrooms as well as general education classrooms, art, music and science rooms, areas to accommodate small-group instruction and hands-on learning, a library, lunch room and gym with two full-size basketball courts and it would have its own playground area.
The new school would also have separate areas for buses and parents to drop off and pick up students.
The new intermediate school would follow what some schools call a house or village configuration.
“Groupings of three or four classrooms would share a bank of lockers, bathrooms, and a larger instructional gathering area, all within the same area, so it becomes their space,” Zegers said.
Each grouping of classrooms functions as its own neighborhood, more or less.
“By having all that in the same area or unit, the movement in the hallways during the school days is minimal and it really allows for maximal supervision,” he said.
Six administrators, as well as two board members, toured a school in Waunakee that serves as a model.
“Waunakee calls it a village,” he said. “Basically, it’s just a term that says they’re a community within themselves.”
Having the intermediate and middle schools so near each other would help the schools share resources.
“We can accelerate students if they want – if a sixth-grade student is through all the prerequisites in math, for example, he could walk over to the middle school and take seventh-grade math,” Zegers said. “It would also be very convenient for staffing, if we have to share staff.”
If the first referendum passes, taxpayers would pay an extra $2 per month for each $100,000 their properties are assessed. That’s $24 per year for a home valued at $100,000, $48 per year for a home valued at $200,000, etc.
If the second referendum question passes, regarding a new multi-purpose facility and stadium improvements at West De Pere High School taxpayers would pay an extra $2.58 per month for each $100,000 in value that their property is assessed.
That’s $31 per year for a $100,000 home, $62 per year for a $200,000 home, etc.
The district will hold two open house sessions this month to answer questions that residents in the West De Pere School District may have about the two referendum questions that will be on the Nov. 6 ballot.
The sessions will be from 6-7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 17, at the West De Pere High School commons and the same time Thursday, Oct. 25, at the West De Pere Middle School commons.