FOX47 NEWS - Three Waupun-Area Schools To Close

Jeff Angileri
Mar 16, 2009, 10:44 PM

This fall, hundreds of students in the Waupun area will be attending different schools after a major decision by the district to cut costs.

Monday night, the Waupun School Board voted to close three out of the four elementary schools in the district.

It's all part of a restructuring plan to fill a $1.2 million budget gap. District administrator Randy Refsland says the only way to close the gap is to close schools.

One elementary school in each Waupun, Alto, and Fox Lake will close at the end of the school year.

Empty classrooms are becoming more common in the Waupun school district.

Our population is older, so we are having fewer kids, said Refsland. We also have an open enrollment issue, with kids going out of the district.

Enrollment declined by 300 students in the last six years. That, along with failed referenda, tightened Waupun's budget even further.

It doesn't make sense for us to keep three buildings open when we can be more efficient, Refsland said.

Efficiency means little to people in the communities of Alto and Fox Lake, who will soon themselves living in a place with no public schools at all.

It's like taking the heartbeat out of Fox Lake, said Kim Derleth of Fox Lake. It will become a community without children.

Some students will have to travel an average of 5 to 10 miles farther by bus, to the district's sole elementary school in Waupun. Community members worry about the affect students leaving will have on the population as a whole.

We have volunteers that come in here and work for nothing -- parents, relatives, friends of the school. The businesses give money to the school, Derleth said.

Education is not about bricks and mortar, said Refsland. It's not about what building you're in. It's about the teacher in front of you, and it's about your willingness and readiness to learn.

This restructuring will affect every student in the district because grade levels in all the schools will be moved around.

Meanwhile, some people in Fox Lake are hoping to consolidate with another school district -- possibly Randolph, which is about five miles closer than Waupun.

Derleth is part of Concerned Area Residents for Education (CARE). The group will be holding a special listening session Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m. for residents of the city of Fox Lake and the town of Fox Lake to discuss the future of education in that community. The meeting will be held at the Fox Lake city hall.

Many districts in the state are making tough choices to cut costs. Schools looking to consolidate can apply for money from the state Department of Public Instruction. Among the schools studying those options: Argyle and Pecatonica; Benton, Cuba City, Southwestern and Shullsburg; Montello & Westfield; Prairie du Chien and Wauzeka Steuben.

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