Voters consider consolidating West Allis-West Milwaukee high schools in referendum

Posted at 10:26 PM, Mar 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-31 23:26:29-04

WEST ALLIS, Wisc. — Voters in the West Allis-West Milwaukee school district will vote on whether to consolidate two high schools in a nearly $150 million referendum Tuesday.

The district wants to close Central and Nathan Hale high schools and build one revamped school at the Nathan Hale site.

The goal date is 2026. Students would attend each individual school while construction goes on.

The district says consolidating the high schools will save money and provide better opportunities for students. Also, officials say the buildings are old and expensive to keep up, and enrollment is falling.

"We are looking to decline to around 7,000 total students over the next five years or so, and then that will kind of maintain over the next 25. Based on that, we are not going to have to serve as many high school students and to fiscally operate both buildings does not make sense," said school board president Noah Leigh.

Leigh says a committee of 40 people has been looking into this issue for about two years. The district has held several listening sessions over the past few weeks.

If passed, the district says taxes will go up—about $119 per each $100,000 home. The district estimates this rate will be less than the rate in 2020.

Parents have mixed feelings.

"I do think it's worth it, looking at the information they've sent out of what the increase will be for our property value, and they've also sent comparisons to other communities and it fell about right in the middle," said parent Angela Laluzerne. "So to us, it was an amount that was completely acceptable."

Last October, a survey of people who live in the district shows 46 percent would vote yes, 35 percent would vote no, and 19 percent were undecided.

"He's going to go there until junior year and then senior year he has to start all over and go to a different school," said grandparent Sheryl Gilman. "I'm not fond of a tax increase either."

Gary Schultz is part of a group trying to get more people to vote no. He says it's about more than just taxes.

"The project that's proposed in the referendum has a lot of wants in it. Not needs—wants," Schultz said. "Our school district's DPI report card is at the same level as Milwaukee Public Schools, so a lot of us feel that the wants in this project need to be put into the needs of our school district to improve our academic performance."

If the referendum doesn't pass, district officials say they may have to make other changes, such as increasing class sizes or consolidating other schools.

"We have to come up with the money somehow and be able to address those things," Leigh said. "And again, that's not increasing our learning environments, it's just really maintaining the building so that they are safe and effective for learning. So, that will have to come out of the budget."

The final listening session is Saturday, April 2, at 10 a.m. at the Intermediate School Library.

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