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The Future of the Wausau School District 

Important Update for our Community:

Update on Tuesday, December 12, 2023:  During the Regular Board of Education meeting on Monday, December 11, members voted to keep Wausau Area Montessori Charter School within Horace Mann Middle School.  

Update on Tuesday, November 14:  During the Wausau School Board meeting on November 13, 2023, some big changes were made to the Wausau School District restructuring plan.  After a lot of discussion and a 5-4 vote, here's what we understand at this point.

  • Wausau East and Wausau West will continue to serve students in grades 9-12 as 2 separate high schools
    • That means school colors and mascots for the high schools will remain as they are now
    • Each high school will retain its current structure
  • Horace Mann and John Muir middle schools will continue to serve students in grades 6-8
  • However, the Board has expressed interest in improving parity between the secondary schools
    • They want the development of a common 6-12 secondary curriculum to continue
    • Balancing the enrollments was mentioned, but no action was taken to that effect. 
  • Keep elementary schools K-5, but continue to assess the current footprint to determine solutions for decreasing the amount of square footage that the district is managing for elementary education
    • The idea of hiring a consultant or creating a task force to conduct an analysis of our elementary footprint was discussed, but no action was taken
  • The idea of housing 4K and Early Childhood programs in each elementary school was also discussed, but no action was taken
  • The current referendum work will continue

Several questions will need clarification in the weeks and months to come:

  • Will the Wausau Area Montessori Charter School be housed at Lincoln Elementary?
  • Will the new Red Granite Charter School be housed at the Hewitt-Texas site?
  • How will a plan to restructure our elementary footprint be developed and what is the timeline for that?
  • How and when will the Wausau School District complete the needed work at the elementary schools that was removed from the last referendum?
  • Will we build a road behind Hawthorn Hills Elementary?

That said, we know you probably have a lot of additional questions about what next steps look like.  To ensure we are able to get those answers for you, we have put together a very brief survey. Click here to share your questions with us.  We will read through each and every one of them to ensure we get you the information you need.

We look forward to working with you, your students, our staff, and the Board to ensure this district is set for success not just in the year ahead - but well beyond. Throughout the process, we will keep you in the loop every step of the way as we move forward and get direction from the Board.  In the meantime, we remain committed to making this the very best district for you, your students, our staff, and our community.

Dr. Keith Hilts - Superintendent


Archive: How did we get to this point?

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 

Update on September 25, 2023:
The Wausau School District is working extremely hard to ensure the restructuring is done well and that it benefits our students, their families, and our staff. As we plan for that, we're exploring possible solutions to inadequate Science spaces at Wausau West. We’ve been working closely with staff at Wausau West and Wausau East to work through this challenge. To ensure transparency, we also want to make sure the Board, and the broader community, are aware of it too so that collectively we can come together to discuss and work through possible solutions. At the end of the day, our goal of the restructure is to ensure that students have expanded developmentally-appropriate opportunities and stronger supports.
Update on September 14, 2023:  The results of the 2nd community-wide survey, designed to help us identify a mascot for our newly merged junior and senior high schools, are in!  
Update on August 2, 2023:  We need your input on a new mascot for our merged junior and senior high schools! 
Update on July 26, 2023:   Right now, Administration is working on a plan to gather input from staff, students, parents/guardians, and community members on a new mascot for the merged Junior and Senior High Schools.  Please watch for more updates here and in your email. 
Update on July 11, 2023:  We have an exciting update to share with you as it relates to restructuring the Wausau School District.  Administration has received official direction from the Wausau School Board about how to proceed with rebranding the merged junior and senior high schools.  During their Regular Board of Education meeting on July 10, 2023, Board members voted to name the schools:
  • Wausau Junior High School
  • Wausau Senior High School
In addition to that, Board members also voted to make the official colors of those schools blue and red with possible accents of white or gray to be determined by the site. 
So, what about the mascot?  Well, we're also excited to share with you that the Board has also given Administration official direction to move forward with getting community input about what the new mascot of those schools will be.  Any final decision about a mascot will require School Board approval.  Administration is thrilled to get to work on gathering your input!
Members of the Wausau School District's Longfellow Administration Team work with Greenheck on Project Planning.

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.  

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!


4 middle school students spend their morning fishing in Rib Mountain.
Wausau West DECA students go whitewater rafting as part of officer workshop.
Wausau School Teacher Samantha Correa O'Brien helps a student with an art project.

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.)
This image explains which schools will close and the schools they will merge with.
This image explains how a secondary restructure will work.

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. 

This image shows a timeline of events from referendum to restructuring conversations


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.

This image shows the results to question #1 about merging 2 or more elementary schools.
This image shows the results to question #2 about merging 2 or more elementary schools.
This image shows the results to question #3 about creating a dual campus high school model.


Back to the Timeline...

This image shows a timeline of events from referendum to restructuring conversations
This image shows a timeline of events from referendum to restructuring conversations
This image shows a timeline of events from referendum to restructuring conversations
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: 

Click here to Watch the January 10, 2022 Board Meeting where that was discussed

Click here to watch continued conversation during the january 17, 2022 Board Meeting

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:

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.
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.

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.  

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

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. 

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. 

Our Measurable Outcomes by restructuring

This image lists our measurable outcomes for a Wausau School District Restructure.
This image lists more of our measurable outcomes for a Wausau School District Restructure.

Frequently Asked Questions about Restructuring:

Have a question?
Share them by clicking here.
Scan this QR code with your phone:
This is a QR code you scan with your smartphone to enter in any questions you have about the restructuring discussions.



What excites you and/or concerns you about a possible restructure of the Wausau School District? 
Click this link
You can also submit your feedback by scanning this QR code with your smartphone
This is a QR code for our restructuring community survey.
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.