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VIDEO | West Bend School Board debates location of Pathways Charter School

June 19, 2018 – West Bend, WI – The West Bend School Board held a lengthy discussion Monday night about the future of Pathways Charter School. The issue was the location of the school and whether a new site could be found within the next two months.

The item on the table was a 1-year extension of the contract for the Charter school, open to grades 7 – 12 at 1430 S. Main Street. There are generally about 60 students enrolled each year.

Board President Joel Ongert took issue with the location of the school which is house in the Mutual Mall on Main Street in West Bend.  “My sticking point is the safety. My understanding is it’s a shared facility. Doors aren’t secured. Close to Main Street. That being said – I want to amend the motion through June 30 of 2019 and add a location other than current location,” said Ongert.

Board member Ken Schmidt aske if it was reasonable to consider that. “We don’t have a lot of time. Unless someone in this body has a place. I share the same concerns but I look at reasonable compromises. We need to have a facility available for those who are enrolled in Pathways Charter School. If we can’t find one then there’s no Pathways. No other facility – no Pathways – I could not support that and I don’t think it’s reasonable.”

Some other talking points included:

– We would have capacity at the high school but we would need to determine the optimal location. Pathways reviewed a location at the HS and had some suggestions and there were drawbacks.

– Laura Jackson said,  “We could look further within our own buildings. Look further anywhere. Not up to date on available space within the community.”

– Board member Nancy Justman, “I have same concerns. I’m not willing to say ‘No Pathways’ and that’s not fair to students. I charge this board and the governance council.  I won’t support it either – I don’t want Pathways in jeopardy.”

– Ongert said,  “I don’t want Pathways to end either. My only holdup is the location.”

– Ken Schmidt said, “Are all our facilities totally safe. We can’t prevent every safety problem. If we can’t come up with an alternate location that would be safer than the one we have then it would be my thought and go ahead some improvements to the safety of the building so it would  – but if we can’t secure something in the next few weeks we need to move forward with improving the facility we have.”

-Board member Tonnie Schmidt – “I don’t have any hard evidence. If there’s room at the high school and even less than ideal – I’d like to see more information on that.”

-Board member Chris Zweigart – “We’re so close to the deadline. I wish we had more time and we don’t. This is the year we need to take a very hard look at this. Because of the tight timeline I agree with Mr. Schmidt.”

Vote taken on Ongert motion to approve and at any location other than current location.  Motion fails 6-1 with only Ongert in favor.

Approve one year extension through June 30.

Ongert – “My hope is to find a location so they are not in that building. Not a blade of grass, parking 2-feet from classrooms, on the main drag, and cosmetically it’s not WB’s finest. My plea to the governance council and lead teachers at Pathways – let’s try to work with district and find something soon.”

Board member Kurt Rebholz –  “There were concerns when this agreement was signed five years ago. It doesn’t take long to set up a committee to evaluate other sites.  We do want a safe school environment and let’s start evaluating.”

Ken Schmidt – “It’s not fair to lay this responsibility at the feet of the governance board.”

Tonnie Schmidt – “They never had the chance to explore an environment that’s best for them. I don’t want the governance council to feel responsible and alone I’d like to empower them and we should consider their opinions.”

Vote 7-0 to approve a 1-year extension of Pathways Charter School at its current location, 1430 S. Main Street.

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