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Wisconsin Dells High School is currently over the targeted capacity by 165 students as a vote on the referendum for a new high school edges closer.

According to Terry Slack, School District of Wisconsin Dells superintendent, at an Oct. 8 Special School Board meeting, the number of students at the high school currently exceeds enrollment targets by 35 percent.

Spring Hill Elementary School also exceeds enrollment targets by 6 percent, while the other schools in the district are currently below target capacity.

Although Spring Hill Middle School is currently at 90 percent capacity, moving eighth grade students to the middle school from the high school would cause the middle school to be at more than 135 percent capacity. If sixth grade students were then moved to the elementary school to alleviate capacity issues at the middle school, each of the three elementary schools would then be over capacity.

In a written report to the board, Slack noted that education consultants claim class sizes over the target capacity can have a negative effect on instruction. Slack also pointed to district spending per student as the district pushes for the high school referendum.

“Capacity at the schools is something we’ve highlighted a few times,” Slack said.

“On the referendum trail, there have been community members who believe the District is a high-spending district,” Slack said. “That is far from the truth. Only Portage has a lower cost per student.”

Wisconsin Dells spent $11,826 per member in 2015-16, while Portage spent $11,548. Other neighboring school districts spent more, with Westfield spending $11,859, Baraboo spending $11,879, Reedsburg spending $12,747, Mauston spending $13,602, and Adams-Friendship spending $14,200. The state average is $12,942 during that time period.

Bus drivers needed

The district is looking into offering a signing bonus for school bus drivers to entice potential hires to apply for a position.

According to Fred Steinhorst, transportation supervisor, the district has hired one additional driver, but the district needs more to relieve the pressure on current drivers.

“We’ve put it out on social media, ads in the paper, ads in the shopper-stoppers,” said Steinhorst. “We’ve got nothing.”

“Right now, if there was an issue with a bus, we don’t have anyone sitting in the garage to go pick them (students) up,” continued Steinhorst.

In attempting to find a solution, the board is going to look into providing a signing bonus for new hires, and will gets estimates of cost to purchase vans that coaches could use to transport students for sporting events. Golf team coaches currently use a van to transport students to sporting events, rather than a bus.

Additional actions

In addition, the board:

  • Approved revoking open enrollment for a habitually truant student. The board previously voted in September to revoke open enrollment for a different student for habitual truancy.
  • Approved reports listing no violations of board-superintendent staff accountability and no violations of board governance policy.
  • Approved hiring of an additional bus driver.

The board will meet from 5:30-7 p.m. Oct. 16 to provide information to contractors on the bid process for the high school construction if the referendum passes, and will meet at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 16 to put on a presentation about the referendum open to anyone wanting to attend. Both meetings will be held at the high school library media center, 520 Race St., Wisconsin Dells.

Reach Christopher Jardine on Twitter @ChrisJJardine or contact him at 608-432-6591.