Nelsons' proposed gift gives new high school hopes a boost (copy)

Dells High School Principal Hugh Gaston discusses the viability of the 80-acre site Todd and Shari Nelson have proposed donating for a new high school in this Aug. 14 file photo.

Dells Events file photo

To build or not to build a new Wisconsin Dells High School, that is the question.

Whether ‘tis the direction the Wisconsin Dells School Board will take in the near future is the subject of a special meeting scheduled for Nov. 1.

The public meeting will take place at 7 p.m. in the current Dells High School library media center, and consideration of the various gifts and other forms of assistance recently offered to the District for a new high school complex comprise the meeting’s agenda.

A public comment and “general subject matter” discussion will precede the board’s consideration of whether to accept a gift of 80 acres from alumni Todd and Shari Nelson “for the sole purpose of building a high school facility,” whether to accept a $500,000 gift in memory of Jack B. Olson from Sally Olson Bracken and Sandy Bracken and whether to accept Premier Resort Tax monies from the village of Lake Delton for a new high school building complex.

Next and last on the agenda is the board’s consideration of a potential new school’s “design development phase to assist in pre-referendum project planning.”

Design development, financial planning and numerous other details would precede any referendum offered to voters in the district, whether that referendum comes in the spring or the fall of 2018, according to District Superintendent Terry Slack. 

In spite of the building financial momentum toward a new high school since the summer when the Nelsons first announced their offer of 80 acres of farmland across U.S. Highway 12 from Trappers Turn golf club, the board’s approval for proceeding in that direction is not necessarily a foregone conclusion, Slack said.

“It could be an interesting meeting,” he said. “I don’t quite know what to expect.”

Community-wide opinion data gathered more than a year ago as well as board member statements since then have indicated almost equally strong support across the district for a new elementary school in Lake Delton, Slack said.

“It’s agonizing, and it’s a challenge,” he said. “For some, they’re very passionate about the need for a new high school, and others are passionate about it being time to do a new project in Lake Delton. At some point, something has to give.”

Should the board decide to proceed toward building a new high school, the development of a referendum question for the school district’s voters to consider would follow over the coming weeks and months, Slack said.

Or, as Shakespeare might say, "To build: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub."

Follow Ed Legge on Twitter @DellsEd. Contact him at 608-432-6591.