The La Crosse school board met Monday night to discuss the results of a district-wide survey sent out in October.
The survey — which received 4,664 responses — addressed recent concerns about declining enrollment numbers and consolidating schools.
La Crosse has two high schools, three middle schools and nine elementary schools.
When compared to 12 similar sized districts, La Crosse has the most schools, despite ranking 7th in enrollment.
Enrollment in La Crosse schools has dropped by more than 1,400 students over the past 20 years and will continue to decline over the next 10 years.
Right now, just over 6,000 students are divided between 15 different buildings.
La Crosse Schools Superintendent, Dr. Aaron Engle, explained at Monday’s meeting that the next step will be an information campaign to provide more details about the consolidation plan.
“We will start to put together a plan as we move forward and make sure the public is well informed, and then we will lead into a subsequent survey in the spring,” he said, adding. “As we approach the next survey, and certainly if we were to go to referendum, that would be part of the project — to ensure that people have all of the information they need to make a good decision.”
According to the survey, around 70% of all survey respondents support “right-sizing” the district in the form of closing, consolidating and remodeling some of the buildings.
Consolidating Logan and Central high schools was the least favorable option with only 55% of respondents approving.
The survey explained that, “If a new high school was built, we could maintain our two high school programs with the same names, mascots and unique identities, in one building. This approach would be similar to how the West Bend School District is configured (East and West). These two high schools exist in the same building. Although this option brings its own unique set of challenges, we could maintain two separate athletic programs.”
Bill Foster, who helped put the survey together and analyze the results, explained at the meeting that the most value from the survey should be in non-parent and non-staff respondents, since they represent the majority of people in the district.
In that case, 71% of non-parent, non-staff respondents were in favor of the “right-sizing” plan.
Consolidating and remodeling the middle schools was considered the most urgent need of the district.
Right now the average size of the schools are 4.2 acres, with the recommended size of a middle school being between 15-20 acres.
When asked if they would approve consolidating from three to two middle schools, approximately 78% of the respondents rescinded “yes.”