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The Future of the Wausau School District

Here at the Wausau School District, there are so many amazing things happening within our buildings.  Students are eager to learn and grow and we have the most amazing staff beside them; helping to prepare them for college, career, and life.  However, the district is facing several long-term challenges that are starting to put up some real barriers to the success of our students and staff.  That's why we having a community conversation focused on the future of the Wausau School District, including the potential for a restructure.  

 

This photo shows 6 students at Hawthorn Hills enjoying time out on the playground together.

why?  A Desire to improve Service to Students, families, and staff, while creating a space where students and staff will thrive!

The Wausau School Board is concerned about differences in staff, student, and family experiences based on the school one attends or works at within the Wausau School District.  These differences across schools are characterized by changing enrollment trends and future projections within geographic areas; students achievement; programs and course offerings; co-curricular offerings; staffing challenges; scheduling models; physical space and facilities.

A Conversation with the Community

WATCH NOW: the Wausau school district's first community meeting about our district's future

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November 16, 2022
Wausau West High School Auditorium

Next Meeting:

Wednesday, December 7

5 p.m.
Wausau East High School Auditorium

understanding the structure of the district now, the challenges we're facing, and the potential solutions 

Rib Mountain Elementary students work on Leader in Me mural
Pictured:  John Muir Middle School's Nutrition Services Team
Wausau West students perform on stage during the Pop Concert.
This graphic explains that we have more than 20 buildings to staff and maintain every single schools year.

Part 1: A look at the Challenges We're Facing

Part 2:  A Focus on the Future

Wausau School District students enjoy time out at the pumpkin farm.
Students from Riverview Elementary School enjoy time outside.
Two Wausau School District students work hard on a project in the classroom.

the Challenges Facing the Wausau School District

Inconsistent Student Success

Right now, our students do not have access to the same academic and co-curricular programs, or the same supports, across all of our schools in the Wausau School District. 

For example: 

  • Wausau West is home to the engineering & robotics programs
  • Wausau East is home to a state-of-the-art automotive lab

Students, regardless of which high school they attend, can enroll in those programs.  However, that is only an option if their schedules allow and if they have the transportation to do so.  

 

Inconsistent Staffing Across Schools/Inconsistent Work Experiences

Several Wausau School District staff work in multiple schools because of lower enrollments.  Why is that an issue?  If a student is in need, they may not be able to get the necessary support  because those who would help them may be at another school working with students or on the road. 

In addition, for staff, that can mean they also don't have the support of their colleagues and they don't really have a home-base.  

Declining Enrollment/Unfavorable Open Enrollment Trends

The population of our region is dropping  and data shows even more declines ahead.  Why?  Families are having fewer children.  

This graph shows a decline in enrollment over time; 2003-2022

Making it worse, like many districts, we also lose students to something called open enrollment.  Reasons include, but are not limited to, the location of childcare and relocation. 

Declining enrollment, regardless of the reason, is a problem because it makes it harder for us to maintain our high-quality academic and co-curricular programming.

 

Challenges Attracting & Retaining High-Quality Staff

As you probably know, it's incredibly difficult to find employees right now.  It's no different here at the Wausau School District.  Teachers, custodians, building support and nutrition services staff; not to mention bus drivers, are all in high demand.  Staffing more than 20 buildings is incredibly difficult. 

This graph shows a big increase in the number of teachers getting emergency credentials between 2012 and 2021

There is teacher availability currently, at least for the most part, but fewer people are entering and completing their teacher preparation programs. As a result, it is getting harder to find staff and more teachers are obtaining emergency credentials. 

Continued Long-Term Financial Challenges

Did you know?  Wisconsin's national ranking on per pupil spending for K-12 education has dropped from #11 in 2002 to #28 in 2022.  There has also been no revenue limit adjustment in 6 of the last 8 years.  Yet, adjusting revenue limits annually to inflation was the top recommendation of the Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding.

This graph illustrates that revenue limit adjustments have not kept up with inflation.

 

*By not adjusting revenue limits annually to inflation, the Wausau School District has lost an estimated $25 million since 2008.

Between declining enrollment, uncertain revenues from the state legislature, and our own inefficiencies caused by maintaining all of our buildings, our finances are strained.  As a result, it's getting harder and harder to invest in our people and our programs. 

Planning for this Conversation

The John Muir Middle School Rock Band hit the road to showcase how awesome band class can be for the future 6th-grade rockers
This is an image of Lance Trollop, School Board Vice President, next to a quote he said about consolidation.

Potential solution:  a restructure of the wausau school district

This is a graph showing by restructuring we can solve 4 challenges.
This is a photo of Wausau East's band performing

When Did We Start Talking About Restructuring?

  • There has been years of discussion about merging schools
  • Elementary boundaries were redrawn in 2016
  • We attempted to have a staff & community conversation during the pandemic, however, that was not successful given the circumstances.
  • We passed a facility referendum in the spring of 2022 to address critical infrastructure issues.

Continued... When Did We Start Talking About Restructuring?

  • The School Board intentionally removed $60 million of work at our elementary schools to give time for the restructuring conversation to happen. 
  • The School Board created two subcommittees in May of 2022.  They met several times.

Learn More About the Subcommittees' work here

  • Underway now:  staff and community engagement.

Frequently Asked Questions about Restructuring

What's Next?

We need to hear from YOU!  We need to know your thoughts, questions, and concerns.  So how can you share them with us?  

Invitation to Community Conversation about WSD's future.  Features picture of 6 district students together.

Click this link

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You can also submit your feedback by scanning this QR code with your smartphone.

This is a QR code for our restructuring community survey.