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Voters approve La Crosse School District referendum

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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) - With ongoing reductions in state revenue to schools, many districts find themselves asking voters for additional revenue.

Tuesday night, unofficial results show La Crosse voters gave their okay, approving a nearly $21 million, 5-year operating referendum.

It's a continued testament to a community that supports education,” said La Crosse School District Superintendent Randy Nelson about the results. “This is a community that has stepped up over and over again to support it's schools, and we really appreciate that.”

Its approval will not increase taxes since it would replace a 5-year referendum of the same amount that expires June 30.

In this particular case, these dollars are going to be used to continue things we've already had moving along,” Nelson said.

The referendum will fund three components: educational programs, building safety and maintenance, and technology.

Educational Programs

With more money going toward educational programs, class sizes will remain low, improving quality of instruction, according to school district representatives.

$3,350,000/year will go toward educational programs.

Keeping the class sizes smaller gives me more time to work with my students,” Hamilton Elementary first grade teacher Lacey Sinn told News 19 in March.

At this age, they're developing so much as learners, as readers, as writers, and math. So giving them one-on-one time is important,” she added.

Currently classes sizes for kindergarten through third grades are at 18 students or less, said La Crosse Associate Superintendent of Instruction Dr. Troy Harcey to News 19 last month.

It's thanks to the Student Achievement Guarantee and Education Program (SAGE), Harcey said. That program could have been on the chopping block if the referendum didn't pass.

Building Safety and Maintenance

The building and safety component of this new referendum will fund extra video surveillance and security for the high schools, said Jason Showen to News 19 in March. Showen is the building and grounds manager for the La Crosse School District.

That high school security would include technology already implemented at the elementary schools and some middle schools under the current referendum, Showen added.

Before guests are granted access into the building, they're screened by the front office through a doorbell and camera system at the door.

The school will use $412,500/year for the upgrades that will also include updates to elementary school entryways not changed under the district's current referendum.

Instead of visitors being able to go directly into the school, the doors in the foyer would be locked and visitors would have to enter through the main office.

It's an extra precaution to keep students safe, Showen said.

Technology

High school students will get a technology overhaul thanks to new funding.

$412,500/year will go toward devises that promote interactive learning.

Under the current referendum, students in the middle schools and charter schools have been using iPads. Each one connects to the teacher's computer and in real-time, students can show the class what they're working on.

The ability that I was giving kids to see a topic, to understand a topic, and to be able to process through a topic has been exceptionally bigger here, said 7th grade teacher Nathan Niehausen to News 19 in March.

Proponents of the iPads said its a tool for “real world” learning.

Budget Cuts

La Crosse Schools have already had to cut an average of $2 million in expenses each year to balance the budget, according to district officials.

In a pamphlet sent out to voters, the district explains that the annual cost to run the schools has “outpaced state controlled revenue increases.”

The district said it has already worked to balance the budget by reducing expenses by about $9 million, eliminating nearly 80 positions district-wide, reducing retirement benefits by 35 percent, and shifting many benefit costs to employees.

I know that our community is aware of that and they're sensitive to that,” Nelson said. “They support strong schools. I think this is a loud testament, a loud shout out to our staff for the great work that they do.”
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