Restructuring the Wausau School District
We're All Better Together!
We want your students to have the very best experiences possible here in the Wausau School District. That means have equal access to all of the amazing opportunities before them so that they will be college, career, and life ready by the time they leave us. We are the stepping stone to their future and we need to make sure they have every tool necessary so that it's the brightest it can be!
Part 1: A Look at the Challenges The Wausau School District is Facing
Part 2: Restructuring and A Focus on the Wausau School District's Future
Part 3: How a Restructure Benefits the Broader Wausau Community
- Wausau Junior High School
- Wausau Senior High School
Update for June & July: The Longfellow Administrative Team is working closely with Greenheck, a well-known local company, on project planning, as well as a project management system to help us guide and track the volume of work with this project. We're so grateful for their willingness to work with us as they're a wonderful partner to us as staff and to our students!
Update Summer 2023: There is an extensive amount of work happening right now to prepare for the restructuring of our District in the Fall of 2025. Even though the work is happening District-wide, there is a big focus on secondary curriculum for the middle schools, as well as the new merged junior and senior high schools, right now. Here are some examples of what the teams are working on:
- Continue developing grades 5-12 curriculum scope and sequence and potential course offerings within content areas/departments
- Cross-department communication and alignment
- Vertical alignment work
This work will be continuous and ongoing leading up to the restructure.
Restructuring the Wausau School District: What does that look like?
By the Fall of 2025, the Wausau School District will be comprised of:
- 8 Elementary Schools
- 2 Middle Schools
- 1 Junior High School
- 1 Senior High School
- 4 Charter Schools: Wausau Area Montessori Charter School, Wausau Area Virtual Education (WAVE), and Enrich, Excel, Achieve Learning Academy (EEA), and Red Granite Charter School (This school is approved to join the Wausau School District. The creators are working on getting grant approval.)
The Wausau School Board voted to merge the following elementary schools:
- Grant Elementary will merge with Thomas Jefferson Elementary. Grant will be sold.
- Hewitt-Texas Elementary will merge with Riverview Elementary. Hewitt-Texas will become the location of the new Red Granite Charter School.
- Lincoln Elementary will merge with G.D. Jones Elementary. Lincoln will become the new home of the Wausau Area Montessori Charter School.
- Rib Mountain will merge with South Mountain Elementary. Rib Mountain will likely become the home of an Early Learning Center.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The Board still needs to decide what to do with Franklin Elementary, John Marshall Elementary, and Hawthorn Hills Elementary. We will let you know when that discussion will happen.
How did we get to this point?
While conversations about restructuring the Wausau School District have been happening for the better part of a decade, conversations started getting serious in the Spring of 2022. Below, you'll be able to find links to each of the School Board meetings where this topic was discussed in great detail. In addition, you'll also be able to find all kinds of information about the subcommittees, who met last summer, to explore the number of challenges the Wausau School District is facing and some potential solutions.
2019 & 2021 Community survey results
IMPORTANT: For reference, "all" means every community member who took the survey. "Comparison" represents district residents who are not current parents of preschool or school-aged students, employees, or students. The comparison group does include parents of former district students.
Back to the Timeline...
Tell me about the subcommittees. Who was on them and what did they talk about?
(By clicking the box below, you will have access to summaries from all of the meetings, along with the presentations members saw, in their entirety. We encourage you to go through each of those presentations to learn what was talked about. Also important to note, these subcommittee meetings were open to the entire community. )
What about the referendum we just passed? You said you would not close or merge schools.
After 2 failed referendums, and knowing a lot of work had to be done at our 20 schools, the Wausau School District set out on a mission. Our mission was to learn what the community wanted to see in a referendum that they would support. To gather that information, we sent out a community-wide survey in the fall of 2021. (See results above). In it, we asked questions related to our facility needs and some referendum ideas. We also asked about whether or not the community would be interested in closing and merging schools (since this has been a topic of discussion for the better part of a decade). As you can see above, those survey results showed support for closing and merging schools. After the survey closed, we also held a series of community input sessions.
Through those conversations, we learned the community wanted us to leave closing and merging schools out of the April 2022 referendum. So, that's exactly what we did. An important note, in January of 2022, as we were discussing the formal referendum proposal, board members, in open session, voted to pull out $60 million dollars worth of work from our elementary schools (with the exception of safety & security updates and additions where needed) because they wanted to have a serious conversation about restructuring and whether or not that would be the right path forward knowing the district is still facing a lot of challenges.
For more context, we encourage you to watch these discussions from the Board Meetings we reference above. Links to them are below:
Three months later, we took the referendum proposal to the community and it passed. From the bottom of our hearts, we remain ever so grateful to the community for their generosity.
more about the community engagement process
- In-person Community Input Sessions (Live streamed to YouTube and aired on Wausau Area Access Media)
- We've met with staff and PTOs at our schools
- Surveys (online and PDF versions) available to staff, parents, and community members to hear their feedback and ideas. (Please know, we've read each and every response!). If you didn't share your feedback yet, please scroll down to take our survey. We'd love to hear from you!
- We've posted to social media (Facebook, YouTube, etc.)
- We've built this webpage
- We've taken out ads in the city's free newspaper
- We've engaged the media and that's led to extensive coverage from our TV, Radio, Print, and Online news partners
- This has also been a frequent conversation during our Board meetings. Those Board meetings are live streamed to YouTube and aired on Wausau Area Access Media
- We've also given restructuring updates in our district and school newsletters that are posted on this website and sent to parents and staff
WATCH NOW: the Wausau school district's community meetings
November 16, 2022
Wausau West High School Auditorium
December 7, 2022
Wausau East High School Auditorium
Restructuring Discussions During Wausau School Board Meetings
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.
- 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.
Both Wausau East and Wausau West struggle with enrollments in some of their programs and offerings. That means, that some programs, even certain athletic offerings, aren't able to run because there are not enough students involved to make them happen.
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 they need, when they need it 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.
Over a 20-year period, we've lost more than 700 students. That equals a decrease in revenue limit authority by $7 million each year going forward.
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.
At the start of the 2022-2023 school year, 239 more students open enrolled out to other school districts. That equals $1.97 million in lost revenue.
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.
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.
*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.
Our Measurable Outcomes by restructuring
Frequently Asked Questions about Restructuring
- Why is the District restructuring?
- Why now?
- What about the referendum you just passed?
- What will restructuring look like?
- Is a referendum required to restructure the Wausau School District?
- Which schools would be merged?
- How large would schools be?
- Do larger schools lead to larger class sizes?
- Will this change save the District money?
- How will merging schools help prepare the District for the future?
- How will the community get involved?
- How are staff involved in this discussion?
- How would this change help students and families?
- How would these changes help staff?
- What is the plan? When would all of this happen?
- What will happen to buildings if schools are closed?
- What about transportation for my child?
- If all grade 8 and 9 students were to attend school on the current East campus and all the 10-11 grade students attend school on the current West campus, would that create traffic delays across the bridges?
- Right now, AP is offered at Wausau West and IB at Wausau East. With one senior high school, what will happen to those programs?
- Part of the proposal includes the creation of Early Learning Centers that would offer child care. What's the framework for that?
- Right now, Wausau East and Wausau West have 2 different schedules. What schedule would the senior high have?
Have a question? Share them by clicking here.
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We know this is a complex topic with a lot of information. If something is not clear, or you have questions that remain unanswered, please let us know. You can do that by filling out the survey above.
*IMPORTANT NOTE: We are absolutely reading your questions. However, we do not have the ability to respond directly to you through the survey system. What we are doing is answering your questions on this webpage once the answers are available. For instance, a popular question from the community centers around busing and what does that look like with a restructure? We've learned new details about what busing would look like thanks to the completion of a Transportation Feasibility Study. You can learn more about that in the presentations above, as well as the FAQs above. Other questions we've received include what about sports and would you maintain the IB Program? Please know, we will continue to update to this webpage with answers to the questions you're asking.