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La Crosse school leaders working on next move to deal with falling enrollment and old buildings, after $195M referendum fails



La Crosse School Superintendent, Dr. Aaron Engel (left) and school board president, Dr. Juan Jimenez, during a news conference Wednesday, Nov, 9, 2022, to discuss what's next, after the $194.7 million referendum didn't pass. (PHOTO: Brad Williams)

It appears to be back to the drawing board for the La Crosse School District, after a large building referendum was defeated by a 2-to-1 margin on Tuesday. 

District leaders said at a news conference Wednesday the school board will have to discuss other plans for dealing with aging buildings and declining enrollment.

La Crosse School Board president Dr. Juan Jimenez said, despite the referendum loss, it was important to tell taxpayers about the need for school consolidation.

“I think that that is a big win,” Jimenez said at the news conference, “that the community now knows that we have challenges, and that those challenges are serious.”

Jimenez and La Crosse Schools superintendent, Dr. Aaron Engel, said the proposal to spend $194.7 million, largely to convert a Trane Company building into one single city high school was the best chance for merging Central and Logan into one building, reflecting falling enrollment.

Only 31 percent of district voters supported the referendum, and some of the opposition arose from the idea of eliminating the only high school serving the north side of La Crosse.

The district had put down a $300,000 payment on the Trane property, and is not likely to get the money back.

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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  1. Nick

    November 10, 2022 at 6:31 am

    Everyone who voted no for the consolidation should start meetings on how you pay for the upkeep of two aging high schools and declining enrollment and propose a plan,
    Actually, it is easy to afford them: raise taxes. Of course , the no’s don’t want that.
    The other problem is the LaCrosse Tribune did not do a great job on this issue. But then that is a real problem in this country.

  2. Lucenut

    November 10, 2022 at 11:28 am

    These aren’t old buildings! In Europe they have school buildings that are hundreds of years old! These maniacs in the school system don’t know their place.

  3. Patti

    November 15, 2022 at 1:34 pm

    Who ok’d the down payment of $300,000 on a decrepit building when that money could have been used for teacher raises and to fix up other schools? That money is gone now. Why was that done?

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