Restructuring the Wausau School District
Supporting your students and our staff every step of the way -- before, during, and after the restructure.
What you need to know about the restructuring of the Wausau School district:
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!
What will happen with the 5 elementary schools that will close?
- 1 school, likely Hewitt-Texas, will be transformed into an environmental charter school. NOTE: The environmental charter school still needs approval.
- 1 school will be converted and house our Wausau Area Montessori Charter School. WAMCS will expand to serve students in grades 4K-8.
- Using 1 or 2 schools, we will create Early Learning Centers serving children from birth to age 5. This will help with the childcare shortage that currently exists in Marathon County!
- Underutilized spaces at other schools will be evaluated for future programming.
- We will sell any unused elementary schools.
The Latest! restructuring UPDATE for the Regular Board Meeting on march 13, 2023:
On Monday, March 13, 2023, Wausau School District Administration will share with the School Board more information around a possible staggered implementation. Administration will also provide new details about what child care would look like under the district restructure.
<-- Click the image to the left to view the presentation.
The Board meeting begins at 5 p.m. To watch it live or view a recording, click here.
A Recap: Previous restructuring Discussions during recent board meetings
During the Education/Operations Committee Meeting on Monday, February 27, 2023, Administration brought forth more information about what the Transportation Feasibility Study is revealing, along with some options for a staggered implementation. No action was taken at this meeting.
To view the presentation in its entirety, click the image to the right -->
If you haven't yet, please review the formal proposal the School Board approved below.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The School Board did amend the final proposal; taking out the reallocation of referendum funds to build an addition at Wausau West.
We know the decision to restructure the Wausau School District has left our community feeling lots of different emotions: excitement, anger, and nervousness. Here's what we want you to know:
- We're going to work with you over the next several months and years to make this transition the best it can be; supporting each other every step of the way!
- We want you to be involved in the re-creation of the Wausau School District. Together, we're going to create the very best school district for your students and our staff; full of opportunities!
- Lastly, this restructure will not happen overnight. The proposal the School Board approved means implementation will not happen until the Fall of 2025. That said, Board members have expressed some interest in a 'staggered implementation.' That would mean making the changes over the course of several months or years and not all at once. Conversations will continue around this topic. Please stay tuned!
So, now that the restructuring proposal has been approved, what's next?
Here at the Wausau School District, a lot of work needs to happen. We're going to form several committees; committees that will work tirelessly over the course of the next several months and years to make the Wausau School District the very best it can be after the restructuring happens. From Culture & Traditions to Curriculum Development, and everything in between, this work will be extensive with input from staff, parents, students, and the broader community along the way. We want you to have a seat at the table! Take a look at the committees that will be formed:
Not only will we continually bring updates on our restructuring work to the Wausau School Board, some elements still require their approval. Those elements include:
- 8 K-4 elementary schools
- Appropriating facilities for charter schools and other specialized programming
- Creation of the Early Learning Centers
Imagine the Possibilities!
Over the course of the next few years, we have an opportunity to re-envision what the future of the Wausau School District looks like together! Our Career & Technical Education Coordinator, Jon Winter, recently shared an example of how we could improve programming for your students through this process:
An Opportunity to Expand Blended Pathways - Contextualized Learning
- Geometry & Construction leading to a capstone experience in Construction
- Food Science (currently offered) leading to a ServSafe certification
- AMPED on Algebra: Algebra 1 in Manufacturing Processes, Entrepreneurship and Design
- Sports Medicine: Health classes, Body, Structure & Function (Science)
- Sports Management: Marketing, Broadcast, Graphics, Daktronics, Athletics Practicum
- Future Teachers: Team Teach Family Consumer Science with other interested content areas (Social Studies, English, etc.)
- Welding & Art
There are so many possibilities and opportunities ahead!
How did we even get to this point? Let's Take a Step Back...
Did you know restructuring has been a conversation for the better part of the last decade? In fact, in 2016 we redrew boundaries, but it didn't solve the issues facing the wausau school district.
for this Conversation
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:
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.
the community engagement process leading up to this point
- 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 about a possible restructure
November 16, 2022
Wausau West High School Auditorium
December 7, 2022
Wausau East High School Auditorium
More Restructuring Discussions During Wausau School Board Meetings
understanding the structure of the district now & the challenges we're facing
- April 25, 2022
- May 9, 2022
- September 12, 2022
- October 10, 2022
- October 24, 2022
- November 14, 2022
- November 28, 2022
- December 12, 2022
- December 19, 2022
- January 9, 2023
- January 23, 2023
April 25, 2022
May 9, 2022
September 12, 2022
October 10, 2022
October 24, 2022
November 14, 2022
November 28, 2022
December 12, 2022
December 19, 2022
January 9, 2023
January 23, 2023
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
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?
Why is the District restructuring?
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.
Scan this QR code with your phone:
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 below. 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.