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La Crosse School Board chooses referendum to combine Spence, Emerson elementary schools into new building



The concept is already being called “Emer-Spence” by some.

Voters in the La Crosse School District will be asked to decide whether to merge Emerson and Spence elementary schools, as a way of cutting millions of dollars in spending.

As the result of a 7-2 vote by the school board Monday, a referendum is expected later this year on whether to combine the two schools in a new building, which would go next to the Hogan Administrative Center.

School Board member Deb Suchla said it’s important to ask the district residents what they want.

“They have some lack of trust with the district, and we want to improve that,” Suchla said at Monday’s meeting. “How do we improve that? We go to them, and we say, what do you want? We don’t just say, ‘Come to us, ’cause you’re fearful something might happen to you.'”

Suchla told the board that the public often speaks out only when they don’t want a particular school closed.

Fellow board member Scott Neumeister argued that Emerson, located close to UW-La Crosse, has “lived its useful life.”

“We can’t keep ’em all open, and sooner or later, the one that’s in the worst shape or the ones that are in the worst shape, we can’t nickel and dime it,” Neumeister said. “Sooner or later, we have to make that difficult decision to close it.”

Option No. 1 could save the school system about $6 million in deferred maintenance costs. A referendum would likely be held during the November election.

Monday’s vote means that a Spence-Hintgen merger appears to be off the table.

The board had also been considering, among many plans, closing a north and south elementary school. That plan was proposed by a Facilities Advisory Committee, after eight months looking into the matter. Its recommendation was that closing North Woods and Hintgen would best serve the district.

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. Walden

    February 20, 2024 at 7:36 pm

    So the school board sages are not wanting to close schools to save money; instead they want to “consolidate” schools at a cost of tens of millions of dollars.

    Somehow closing schools is different from “consolidating”? Simply doublespeak.

    Apparently, no one at WIZM thought to ask how much all this is going to cost taxpayers.

  2. Zack

    February 22, 2024 at 3:09 pm

    1.) Building a multi million dollar school saves multi millions of dollars. Are we acting like there isn’t future maintenance to be done on the new school?
    2.) What on earth was the point of the committee if the board isn’t going to even consider their outcome? Hope public money wasn’t spent on it.
    3.) We all know Aaron Engle just wants to build so his resume looks better for when he tries to be the State Superintendent. He failed with the mega school consolidation, doesn’t care at all about how families feel (even though they are the ones paying his enormous paycheck). And if you don’t know that, now you will.
    4.) A lot of money can be saved by cutting useless positions that NEVER INTERACT WITH CHILDREN.

  3. nick

    March 5, 2024 at 5:23 am

    They need first to look at positions that could be eliminated.
    Second, the school board has to do the job they ran for and that is make tough decisions even if not liked.
    There is no getting around declining population, aging schools that require a lot of maintenance and work.
    Third, the local media , especially, the LaCrosse paper can do their job by reporting once a year the details of the budget.
    I subscribe to the paper for the puzzles, comics and obituaries.
    Otherwise, there is not much there.

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