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Virtual hearing about La Crosse school building needs draws only two speakers on Monday



FILE - North Woods International School on County B in La Crosse (PHOTO: Rick Solem)FILE - Emerson Elementary School in La Crosse (PHOTO: Rick Solem)

A special committee looking into the future of La Crosse school buildings took public comments Monday, but the first hearing didn’t last very long.

Just two people signed into the meeting hosted by the School District of La Crosse on the Facility Advisory Committee’s final plan to close two elementary schools.

For the past eight months, the panel had discussed ways in which the School District of La Crosse could save money and create the best learning environment, which ended with the plan to close both Hintgen and North Woods.

FILE – North Woods International School on County B in La Crosse (PHOTO: Rick Solem)

Vanessa D’Lois, a Longfellow Middle School teacher, was one of those two from the public who spoke.

She talked about the added burden placed on Longfellow since Lincoln Middle School closed earlier this year. She said she is not able to work with students in one program because there aren’t enough rooms available.

“Some of my colleagues in special education have faced the same challenge of not being able to meet with their students at times when they need to,” D’Lois said. “We do not have space to have a food pantry, to get food to our families in need.”

D’Lois said Hintgen’s 94 percent attendance rate is one of the best in the district.

The other public speaker during Monday’s hearing was Anna Goldbeck, who identified herself as a former employee of the district who resides near North Woods.

Goldbeck opposes the recommendation to close both North Woods and Hintgen. She believes the FAC was influenced to close those buildings rather than others.

“While it is no longer in question which buildings the Facility Advisory Committee has selected to close,” she said, “I feel it necessary to note that while I agree that closing at least one building is necessary, the Facility Advisory Committee was steered in the direction to close the wrong one.”

Goldbeck described Emerson and Spence schools as the least functional buildings in the district. She defended North Woods as the second newest school in the system, built in the early 1990s.

The final public comment session takes place at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Hogan Administrative Center.

The timeline for a final decision from the La Crosse School Board could come some time in January, according to Superintendent, Dr. Aaron Engle, who talked about the FAC report earlier this month on WIZM.

“Our administration is going to put together a long-range facility plan,” Engel said, “that incorporates public comments that we hear, the Facility Advisory recommendations, and the enrollment and financial report,” Engel told the La Crosse Talk PM audience. “With that, we’ll be able to present to the board in January, long-range facility plans and put before them, an opportunity to make some decisions about our facilities as we move forward.”

Last week, the school board looked over an enrollment report. Next week, finances.

“In December, at our first meeting there, we’re going to have a workshop where we dive into our financial projections,” Engel said. “Things have changed since last February, since we closed Lincoln and initiated this Facility Advisory Committee report. So, we’re gonna get an update on finances.”

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. Tom

    November 28, 2023 at 9:37 am

    “We do not have space to have a food pantry, to get food to our families in need.”

    “You’re supposed to to take care of YOUR kids.” Chris Rock

  2. Concise One

    November 28, 2023 at 12:34 pm

    Who exactly IS supporting closing these schools? The facility advisory committee was only given a choice of which ones to close, and then it came down to only 11 of the 27 original members making the recommendation (not a “consensus” as the word is commonly used). Between the district staff and a pedestrian school board, district performance is only falling further behind the state average. Truancy is a huge problem beginning at the top with the school board’s hands-off management and lack of curiosity about what is actually going on in the schools.

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