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By Joe Block 

Wisconsin Heights to go forward with $500,000 remodel

 

February 28, 2019

Photo contributed

This drawing shows the layout of the newly remodeled tech ed, agriculture, computer lan, and study hall rooms.

The Wisconsin Heights school board approved a $493,000 renovation to the tech ed area of the middle school/high school at their meeting two weeks ago. The expansion is funded by the district's maintenance budget.

According to District Administrator Jordan Sinz, the remodel will involve 4 spaces: the technology education classroom and lab area, the agriculture classroom, the computer lab, and the study hall room.

"When the remodeling is complete," explained Sinz, "The tech ed lab area will be larger as a result of repurposing the former [agriculture] classroom into additional lab space. The agriculture classroom will be housed in what is presently a computer lab. This remodeled space will be significantly larger than the room that our [agriculture] classes currently are run in. They will also have better amenities to meet student needs. The computer lab will be housed in what is presently the study hall room. Study hall will eventually be moved to classrooms that are currently unoccupied." Sinz notes that the final part of the project, moving the study hall, will occur at a later date.

Agriculture education teacher Kim Houser had the following to say about the remodel:

"For the agricultural education department, the biggest need that this is helping is space - the agricultural education room will gain 3 times the size of the current facility that we have. It will allow for students to work on labs and projects without running into each other and having the ability to have smaller work groups. We are also able to utilize the space to have an animal learning lab where we will house small animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs, and other domesticated pets."

She added:

"The Agricultural Education and Family/Consumer Science departments are teaming up to offer a Food Science course next year which will be team taught - since there are two teachers for this course, we will be able to have a larger class which will be great for the new area."

Houser concluded: "Overall, I am thrilled to have the support of the staff, administration, students and parents for this remodel project - in the end it will positively impact the education of the students at Wisconsin Heights Middle/High School."

Board denies district boundary change requests

April and Chad Hall requested that the district allow their property to be moved into the Mt. Horeb school district.

The Hall property, located on Highway J and adjacent to the Mount Horeb School District border, has a Black Earth address. The family purchased the four-parcel property last summer. One of the parcels is in the Mount Horeb School District while the other three are in the Wisconsin Heights School District. The house sits some 50 feet from the border.

"The statute calls for 'wherever you lay your head' is where you are assigned to a school district," said Mt. Horeb superintendent Steve Salerno, speaking at the Feb. 18 school board meeting.

The Halls would like their children to attend Mount Horeb schools and approached both school boards about re-aligning the border between the two districts to push some or all of the remaining parcels into the Mount Horeb district.

"We wouldn't be altering the line dramatically," April Hall said. "Mount Horeb has really become our community. When we moved out here in July, Mount Horeb was a little bit closer to us. Mount Horeb has a lot of resources. Our health care provider [and] our dentist are all here in Mount Horeb and we've also found daycare for our other children..."

On the advice of the administration, Mount Horeb's board of education voted to approve the request. Wisconsin Heights rejected the request.

Wisconsin Heights board member Cindy Beuthin had the following to say: "While the board is empathic to the two families requesting the boundary changes, the Board of Education is tasked with reviewing how a boundary change would impact the communities within the Wisconsin Heights School District long term."

She continued, "When a family selects to open enroll, our school is financially impacted one year at a time. On the flipside, when a boundary is redrawn, not only is the school district financially impacted indefinitely, the communities supported by the district are impacted as well by losing the parcel(s) of land. This financial loss is felt through a decline in local tax revenue which directly impacts the ability to support school educational opportunities."

"It seems ... it is only a fiduciary responsibility for them to decline," Chad Hall said, "because it is just taking money away from their children. It seems very responsible of them to do that."

With Wisconsin Heights rejecting the petition, the Halls can appeal the decision to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction

"They make a final determination," Salerno said. "I believe the assessed value of the land is somewhere in the neighborhood of $560,000, so it is significant, obviously, to the Wisconsin Heights School District."

The Halls acknowledged the opportunity to open enroll into Mount Horeb, saying the lack of bus service for open-enrolled students is a concern.

"There is also the risk of open enrollment," Chad Hall said. "I think right now there are three positions open and two applicants, so if there are more applicants before the deadline, there is a risk for not getting [a spot]."

Aaron Kaleas also requested that the district allow his property to be moved into the Middleton-Cross Plain school district. He works in Madison, his ex-wife works in the Madison area, and all his child-care needs are in the Madison area. "Everything for me is to the east," he explained. "I'm trying to return a sense of normalcy to my daughter's life." He said having everything for his daughter near Madison, but having to take her to Black Earth, was disruptive.

Ultimately, the board voted against the request, for the same reasons as the Halls.

Gary Scheutz contributed to this story.

 
 

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