BY LEE REINSCH
DE PERE – The Unified School District of De Pere is looking at placing two questions on the ballot next year in either the spring or fall 2024 elections.
The district may ask taxpayers for $211.35 million — $206.6 million to build a new high school and convert other buildings and $4.75 million for operations.
The new high school would have room for 1,800 students and include an 800-seat performing arts center plus an indoor multipurpose facility.
It would be built where the practice fields/green space and Redbird Field, between the current high school and Dickinson Elementary school, are located now.
One practice field would be relocated.
The current high school would be transitioned into a middle school for grades seven and eight.
It would also serve as home to an early-childhood learning program and pre-K for the entire district.
The current middle school, which accommodates students in grades seven and eight, and Foxview Intermediate School, which currently accommodates students in grades five and six, would be transformed into two intermediate schools for students in grades four through six.
All three of the elementary schools — Dickinson, Heritage and Altmayer — would transition to serving just kindergarten through third grade instead of pre-K through third grade.
Members of the Community Facilities Task Force steering committee, which was tasked with studying options for dealing with the district’s projected population trends, presented their findings to the board of education this week.
“People are moving into our district,” teacher and Task Force member Kerri Herrild said, adding that with 1,450 students at De Pere High School, its capacity of 1,500 is quickly approaching.
Open enrollment is another factor, Herrild added, as the district becomes more attractive to people outside of it.
With more open-enrollment students comes more revenue.
“Having open-enrollment students helps our bottom line,” Herrild said.
More than 500 students enrolled in the Unified School District of De Pere reside outside the district.
The district receives almost $5 million per year in aid monies in return for educating its open enrollees.
The committee ranked the financial stewardship of the plan high, finding that it would maximize cost savings with energy efficient features and that it would make the most of existing property resources and facilities, improve capacity for mental health and wellness services for students and staff, provide space for potential open-enrollment seats districtwide, enable the district to host pre-K at its facilities and keep changes to existing grade configurations to a minimum, while adding space for more students.
De Pere High School, built in 1978, underwent a technology remodel in 1997 and was expanded three times: in 2001, 2007 and 2015.
Now it’s 50 students away from full.
With a current enrollment of 670, De Pere Middle School has room for just five additional students before it meets its capacity of 675.
With an enrollment of 637, Foxview Intermediate School is nearing its capacity of 650.
With 520 students enrolled, Dickinson Elementary will meet its capacity of 594 in a few years.
With 574 students enrolled, Heritage Elementary is within 64 students of its capacity of 638.
Adding to these factors is that about 10 developments underway in Ledgeview are expected to yield an additional 442 students.
Plus, the task force found that the future “South Bridge,” slated to be finished by 2030, is expected to lead to continued growth in Ledgeview and further grow De Pere as a destination district.
All of this means the district will undergo “aggressive growth” over the next 10-20 years.
One of the task force members said the South Bridge project — long in the planning — is finally starting to “feel real” now that the government is putting money toward it.
The task force consisted of about 40 community members, teachers, administrators, staff and other stakeholders, along with representatives of Somerville Architects and CD Smith construction, who met for about 24 hours spanning three months over the summer.
The task force said that without an increase in funding for critical maintenance and operations, the district will have to increase class sizes in all grades, all grades, cut staff, reduce its course offerings, cut athletic and activity opportunities, put off security-related technology hardware upgrades, delay device replacement for students and staff and would become less able to retain and attract qualified staff.
They determined that the district should make room for an extra 400 seats per class between kindergarten and grade eight, plus an extra 425 seats per class from grades 9-12.
Capital project costs
For critical maintenance:
• Altmayer Elementary: $2 million
• Heritage Elementary: $2.4 million
• Dickinson Elementary: $3.5 million
• Foxview Intermediate: $4.2 million
• Middle School (including conversion of current middle school into a second intermediate school): $4.6 million
• High School (including conversion of current high school into middle school + early childhood/4K): $9.3 million
• New high school (343,00 square feet): $147 million
• Performing arts center (26,000 square feet): $12.6 million
• Indoor multi-use facility (50,000 square feet): $21.0 million
The current mill rate is $5.4924, or about $550 for a home assessed at $100,000.
The capital referendum would ask taxpayers to add another $2.84 per $1,000 of assessed value, or $284 for every $100,000 in assessed property value.
District Finance Director Dawn Foeller said the rates quoted are based on 2022 numbers and don’t factor in an 11% increase in the city’s overall equalized value, so the mill rate increase could be lower.
Foeller said the new mill rate of $8.33 would still remain below the state average of $8.64.
The one-time operations referendum would ask for another $1.35 per $1,000 of assessed value, or $135 per $100,000 in assessed value.
The last successful school referendum in the Unified School District of De Pere was in 2015 for $7.1 million in maintenance projects.
Before that, it was a 2005 referendum for $21 million to build Altmayer Elementary and another $600,000 for operations.
In 2000, taxpayers approved $29 million for additions to the high school and Dickinson Elementary and another $1.52 for operations.
In 1995, taxpayers approved $25 million to build Heritage Elementary and De Pere Middle School and to revamp technology at De Pere High School.