December 6, 2019 – Jackson, WI – Common Sense Citizens of Washington County hosted an informational meeting Thursday night at the Jackson Community Center as a member of the West Bend School District Public Task Force gave a presentation on its findings.
Owen Robinson spent about an hour outlining details from the Task Force which spent the summer reviewing facilities in the West Bend School District. Following the presentation Robinson took questions from the audience. There were nearly 20 people in attendance including Village of Jackson administrator John M. Walther and two West Bend School Board members, Erin Dove and Kurt Rebholz.
Questions in Jackson.
Woman in audience read a statement about how the Task Force was made up of all businessmen from West Bend.
Owen Robinson: “I was invited by Kraig Sadownikow and he was looking for people with facilities management. I was invited because I was a vocal opponent and I have some experience in infrastructure in my private life. As far as makeup of the committee he tried to get some who were for and others against.”
Woman: were all the costs factored in including bussing and special education.
OR: “Bussing yes, it would be an extra $180,000 but we talked facilities.”
Man: “I”m opposed to put an elementary school kid on a school bus. A kid feels security being into town. Moving elementary school out of town is a major hit to the community. Moving it outside is not a positive thing.
OR – “Bussing – we did a lot of thinking about this. Community schools’ matter and there is value in kids walking to school. However, in our modern society fewer kids do that. There are plenty of kids who live .7 miles from school, and they will drive them because it’s safer.
OR – “Hit to Jackson by removing it’s school. There is an economic impact that can’t be ignored. The mission to WBSD is to educate kids and not worry about the economic impact to the Village. Do what we can for education.”
Man – “As you’re looking at operational costs. Totally agree not contracting out teachers but why not outsource administration.”
OR – “I think there is room to outsource admin. You look at payroll or expense management. I don’t think you can outsource superintendent or principal but as far as thing that don’t deal with education it can be evaluated.”
Man in red – “783 capacity and then expanded to 1,000. In terms of dealing with elementary school kids – value is better with smaller numbers. What’s more efficient is developing social skills. They get lost in a crowd. When you say reduce staffing – then what happens with guidance.”
OR – “Rough mock-up with possible expansion and out to 1,000 students. Statement is about bigger may not always be better. It’s worth looking at. Looking at construction with pod structure would be like a lot of smaller schools put together. If there’s an opportunity to reducing staffing – you have to be smart about it.”
Man in red – “Parents are dropping kids off – but if you get up to 1,000 then it’s a concern.”
OR – “If we’re faced with decision 10 years from now … we were saying from a facilities long-term planning. You’re trying to stay flexible. We’re trying to make sure it’s well constructed, well maintained and built in a way it can be expanded.”
Woman in stripes – “Would you consider transfer WB students from WB schools; close to Badger and leave Jackson without busing.”
OR – “Look at busing to Jackson instead. We looked at a few options. Didn’t look at how to incorporate Badger or Silverbrook. One option is to close Fair Park or Decorah and we’re at 100% capacity and put those kids elsewhere.”
OR – “We’re at 79% capacity for elementary schools in WB. You could take kids from one school that closed and put them in other schools. I’d take umbrage with “your kids and our kids,” these are all WBSD kids. We’re educating kids from Newburg, to Jackson to towns. Important to approach with all the kids in the district and not your kids and our kids.”
Woman – “I stand corrected. But WB has pushed Jackson into the dark ages. WB is bigger and thinks it has more clout but if we lose our school it’s not good for the village. If your kids get bused why wouldn’t you want to build new school here and bus WB kids to Jackson.”
OR – It is an option. We looked at site and sewer and water. Having a Jackson site – you’re talking added busing costs MORE than $180,000 we calculated. How do you best serve with new facilities to more kids? If you do traffic studies, putting it on north side of Jackson that would be fine.
Woman – The financial numbers you gave won’t exist and how can you say there will be a potential surplus of $2 million. You can’t guarantee the dollar amount.
OR – We did get some actual commercial bids and dropped the amount. We did our best and you have to start somewhere.
Woman – “Your $2 million surplus that’s not a lot.”
OR – In the context of overall operational budget $2 million is a conservative number. But it is enough of an operational savings.
Woman – money stashed away for Jackson school – what would happen to that money.
OR – As far as fund of money we started saving a few years ago. We spent some of that money to date ($750,000) so what’s left would go into the plan to help with school. That’s a school board decision.
John Walther – I understand your economics of scale. There are certainly economies of scale and the Village of Jackson is doing the same thing. The Village board has committed $14 million to $16 million for a new village hall and new police station and fire station. We’re talking services and not bodies or children. One of the main reasons the Village board made the commitment was to pave the way for the school district to build a school directly north of here. The Public Works has already moved to a new facility. It was a good-faith effort. A couple prior superintendents were working hard with the village in constructing that school but unfortunately the momentum was lost but the Village is still making the effort for a neighborhood school. I do understand this is facilities driven and this does make sense from that standpoint, but the reality is you’re dealing with small children.
OR – We did look at it from a facilities lens and not an educational impact. We did work with Zimmerman and asked them for state-of-the-art to make sure it was right. Part of the thinking is this would be in place for five generations – even if we look at how kids are laid out it will not be the same in 10 years or 50 years. We built an infrastructure that has access to major trunk roads with flexibility to adjust.
OR – First point was Village had an eye on new Jackson Elementary and was looking at that for a long time. As a school district we could build a new elementary school, but it’s failed twice. But with facts on declining enrollment and declining budget how do we get the most bang for our buck. We think with this plan we can serve a lot more kids with this money. Does this break a promise, maybe but how could a superintendent three supers ago make this type of promise?
Walther – I believe Jackson is one of largest communities without its own school district. If Jackson is removed the WBSD will really get cut.
OR – Should Village break off. Jackson can .. but it’s a monster process but it can be considered. In the long-term vision of WBSD – it could be reduced in size.. then so be it. If you look at districts around the country that generally speaking – economies of scale could make sense. WB does have a different demographic makeup.
Woman in blue – Why kids are enrolling out. Some are very unhappy with the HS. I know enrollment in some districts are getting smaller.
OR – Why are kids open enrolling or school choicing out of WBSD. We did not look at that. We looked at enrollment as fact and how do you manage facilities with enrollment projections. One note – if you look at open enrollment going out – it’s virtually static and 69-70 percent were never enrolled in the district. There are some population centers on the edge of district, and it has nothing to do with the district. Religious reasons are separate reasons. The Task Force did not look at that. The enrollment decline – the lions share is a decline in the district period.
Man – why doesn’t Jackson have its own school district.
OR – We had a radical look – Slinger has its own district and Jackson does not. If Jackson wants to look at it that’s a major investment. Or to have a feeder school into the high school. From a WBSD standpoint – I would say the school board needs to approve.
Man – Jackson has been treated like an ugly stepchild but what does it take to get the ball rolling – let’s do it.
OR – I don’t know why it hasn’t looked at it. Being perceived as an ugly stepchild – nobody ever talked about it that way. Our decisions were made by economies of scale. We made facilities discussions that way.
Woman in front – history nugget. Mr. Wiziarde was approached about 20 years ago making Jackson its own school district and WB said “no” because they welcome our tax base.
OR – Right now the Village and town of Jackson are 18% of tax base in the district. My hope is we start and end with what’s best for most …
Man – Where is the Task Force report going?
OR – The school board seems to be evaluating our findings. I was encouraged by other ways to approach the facilities issue. If we’re talking declining enrollment and declining revenue – and just replacing by being reactive. If you’re looking at where the district is and how to serve the most kids if you have X amount of money. The board patted us on the head for a couple things. Recently they were in cycle on consolidating the libraries and looked at the maintenance shed. We were just trying to inject a different view. I will say, as an aside, time is not to be wasted and these buildings are declining so the sooner they start making decisions the better.
OR – The Task Force did homework, we’re sharing, and we hope it gave you a different viewpoint. We were nine people in a room trying to figure out a puzzle
Woman in stripes– How did you come about Maintenance and Rolfs into new plan.
OR – Maintenance is by VFW on Sand Drive and Rolfs is behind the district office on Fifth Avenue. Just looking at facilities and put in a single campus; it would be easier say when it snows… if you have fewer facilities then there’s more efficiencies.
Woman in Stripes – I’m a victim of consolidated schools when I was a kid I rode the bus and it’s hard on kids and mental health is in a crisis and I don’t want to see Jackson kids get bused to WB and I don’t want WB kids to be bused here.
OR – Neighborhood schools have value and less busing and more walking. We as a district can have more buildings scattered out. It’s a cost factor. The second point – it’s not all about the money – it’s about the kids, but we have a limited amount of money. Every dollar we spend on carting around snowplows will hinder teacher raises. We have to be good fiscal stewards.
Man – if the Village is going to do something, they need to do it now.
OR – Why wasn’t McLane included in study? It is the second-best school from a facilities perspective. It’s a matter of limited amount of money and you start with the worse problem and work up from there.
Dave H.– Has study affected attendance at School Board meeting?
Kurt Rebholz – No. I would encourage more people to come and voice opinion. Now is time the Task Force is being reviewed.