La Crosse schools will move forward with consolidation regardless of referendum

LA CROSSE (WKBT) — High school students in the La Crosse School District soon will have only one option. The district’s superintendent says if the referendum to build a new high school is not passed, all future high school students will attend Central High School.

A $194.7 million referendum will be on the ballot in November to consolidate Central and Logan high schools into a new building.

“It will allow us to move our middle schools into the existing high school buildings,” Superintendent Aaron Engel said.

The new building would be located on the former Trane headquarters site and will include new trade-focused facilities.

“Not everyone is ready to go to a four year college. We need that. The kids need that experience,” said Mary Bakkum, a grandparent and Central alumna.

The district does not have money or enrollment numbers to keep two high schools, Engel said.

“This has led to some budget challenges and that along with no new state funding for the last two years has really made us consider how to consolidate grade levels and buildings,” he said.

Some parents disagree.

“I think it’s a big mistake,” said Darlene Jaimes, a parent and Central alumna.

If the referendum does not pass, Engel said the school district will move forward with consolidation, with Central as the only high school.

“We know that Central High School once held 1,800 students, and it’s built large enough to be able to accommodate that in the future,” he said.

Over time, the district also will reduce staff, the superintendent said, adding that, as people resign and retire, the district may choose not to refill some positions.

“We need fewer administrators, fewer custodians, fewer food service workers over time,” Engel said.

Some parents say they believe too many students and fewer adults in one building will lead to problems.

“Not only going to cause more issues violently, with bullying. It’s going to cause a lot more stress with teachers,” said Jaimes.

Others believe Central will be too crowded.

“That’s pretty iffy I would say. It was pretty tight when we was there. It’s small. It’s not that big of a school for all the high schoolers,” said Bakkum.

Engel says the district will work with city and community members to discuss the future of any buildings that are not in use.

The entire process will take five to 10 years, Engel said.

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