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La Crosse School District holding 1st community meetings this week on $53.5 million elementary school plan



FILE - Emerson Elementary School in La Crosse (PHOTO: Rick Solem)

A new plan to consolidate buildings in the School District of La Crosse gets its first of four community engagement meetings Tuesday and Wednesday.

It’s a $53.5 million plan that will go to referendum on November’s ballot to build a new elementary school at the Hogan Administrative site, while updating eight classrooms and the gymnasium at State Road Elementary.

Along with that, Emerson and Spence elementary schools will consolidate to the new Hogan building, while Hintgen will close, consolidating those students and some staff to State Road.

The virtual session will take place from noon-1 p.m. Another session happens Wednesday at Central (details below).

Dr. Juan Jimenez, the School Board president, joined La Crosse Talk PM earlier this month to talk about the consolidation plan and how these public engagement sessions might look differently from others the district has conducted recently.

“The idea here is that we are going to have a focused conversation with our community,” Jimenez said. “So, we’re going to have kind of open-ended questions. Depending on how many people show up to these, it might be ‘Let’s break up into small groups, and then come back together,’ just so that we ensure that people have the opportunity to speak.”

La Crosse Talk PM airs weekdays at 5:06 p.m. Listen on the WIZM app, online here, or on 92.3 FM / 1410 AM / 106.7 FM (north of Onalaska). Find all the podcasts here or subscribe to La Crosse Talk PM wherever you get your podcasts.

The questions Jimenez referred were outlined by the Board of Education to guide these discussions:

  • What questions do you have regarding the referendum?
  • What concerns do you have regarding the referendum?
  • What opportunities do you envision with new or improved facilities?

Is there any additional information that could aid us in the referendum process?

In getting to the point of essentially closing three elementaries, building a new one and updating State Road, Jimenez noted that the board looked at other options like reducing staff, curriculum or sports.

“Those are all options out there,” he said. “We didn’t want to touch any of them. We wanted to focus in on what could we do to still maintain communities but yet also find ways of saving money.

“And so, in the end, the board on April 15, made the hardest decision of looking at Emerson, Spence, Hitgen and State Road, and moving forward with that.”

Before coming up with the $53.5 million plan, the district began this around 2020 with the idea of building a new $174 million high school. That referendum question — turning Logan and Central into middle school and converting a south side Trane building into the new high school — was voted down easily by voters.

After that, the district closed Lincoln Middle School, before coming up with what was called a Facilities Advisory Committee (FAC), to consolidate the elementary school situation.

Jimenez noted that the FAC did have one, call it a crutch, that led to changes and this new elementary school referendum plan, and that was there was no option to build a new elementary school. The FAC came up with a north-south plan, closing North Woods and Hintgen. The School Board then made revisions from there and here we are.

After Tuesday’s meeting, the next meetings will be:

  • Wednesday, May 22: 6-7 p.m. at Central High School (second floor outside auditorium)
  • May 28: 6-7 p.m. at the Logan High School commons
  • June 6: noon-1 p.m. (Virtual Session)

Host of WIZM's La Crosse Talk PM | University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point graduate | Hometown: Greenville, Wis | Avid noonball basketball player and sand volleyballer in La Crosse

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  1. Libertarian Guy

    May 21, 2024 at 6:47 am

    Residents are tired of hearing Juan Jimenez whine about how hard the decision was. Jobs and life are hard sometimes. Maybe the decision is hard because it is misguided and wrong. The need is to Educate Children. Juan Jimenez is on record stating his goal is to save staff. Superintendent Aaron Engel’s goal Is two build a shiny new building. The reality? The Board cannot save $2 million by spending $54 million on a new school in a district with too many schools. I intend to vote NO.

  2. Walden

    May 21, 2024 at 9:42 pm

    Education of students is rarely discussed by the School Board and when it is, it is behind a facade of “metrics” intentionally so opaque no-one can be held accountable.

    The District intentionally hides financial information from the public and the School Board itself.

    Bottom line: The School Board just wants to spend money, new high school, new elementary school, its all the same to them just moving chairs around to make it look like progress when in reality the schools as a vehicle of actual learning sink lower every year.

    • LG

      May 22, 2024 at 6:58 am

      Well Said

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