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Growth could add students in De Pere

By Lee Reinsch

DE PERE – The topic of new or soon to be built residential development in the area took up a small chunk the Monday, Nov. 19, meeting of the De Pere school board.

It’s pertinent to the school district because of the subdivisions’ potential effect upon the future student enrollment in De Pere schools.

Much of the development is taking place in the town of Ledgeview.

According to a study for the district done by engineering consultants Mead & Hunt, it’s estimated that the Heritage Heights residential development east of Cottonwood Lane in the Town of Ledgeview could add 93 students to the De Pere school system, while another residential development west of Bower Creek Road could add 62 students over the next several years.

In all, between 10 or so proposed subdivisions in De Pere and the surrounding areas, some 400 students could be added to the Unified School District of De Pere over the next 10 years, according to the consultants’ report.

“The question is what happens with the (proposed) southern bypass bridge,” said Superintendent Ben Villarruel. “It could evoke a lot of development, but we are situated well for future school development because we (the school district) own a lot of property in the area.”

Two possible sites for the southern bridge project being studied are at from Scheuring Road to Heritage Road; and Rockland Road to Red Maple or Southbridge Road.

But Villarruel also pointed out that reality sometimes defies projections.

Leading up to 2007 or 2008, the school district was gaining about 100 students per year.

“But when the recession hit, housing construction stopped – just stopped,” Villarruel said. “That’s why we can’t get too far ahead of ourselves.”

In other matters covered by the board at its meeting Monday:

• The school board voted unanimously to accept the transfer of ownership for the storm water retention pond at Susie C. Altmayer Elementary School from the school district to the City of De Pere. The city will maintain the pond, which will be enlarged to accommodate a nearby residential development. The De Pere Common Council voted unanimously to accept the agreement at its meeting earlier this month.

• Students from De Pere High School made their case for allowing students to leave school grounds during lunch time. During the public open discussion segment of the meeting, the students presented the board with a petition signed by 163 of their peers. An open campus wouldn’t contribute to truancy, nor would it encourage students to travel far away from school, as they wouldn’t want to be marked tardy for their afternoon classes, a student speaker argued. She urged the school board to consider opening the campus on a trial basis so students could demonstrate that they’d act responsibly.

• The board approved revisions and additions to the district’s policies, including those regarding weapons, school visitors, staff use of personal phones, and mandatory reporting of child abuse and threats against the school.

• The board unanimously approved adding several new high school courses to the curriculum. They include Advanced Placement human geography, material science, and art in society.

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