CHIPPEWA FALLS — Stillson Elementary School will stay in the town of Lafayette and be built on property the Chippewa Falls school district doesn’t yet own if a $65 million referendum passes in April and if money is available to do so.
The Chippewa Falls school board voted 4-3 during a special session Thursday to build a new elementary school on farmland the district would have to buy in Lafayette.
A motion also called for selling property the district currently owns on Highway I where the board initially planned to build the school.
The school board was wavering over three options regarding where to put Stillson:
» Keep it at its current site.
» Build a new school on land the school district already owns on Highway I.
» Buy the farmland to keep the school in its current neighborhood.
The current school has septic system and plumbing problems, among others, and is considered at the end of its usable life.
Board members David Czech, Jennifer Heinz, Pat Allen and board President Amy Mason all voted in favor of the plan to build the school on the farmland, which is about 37 acres compared with the 6 acres at the school’s current location at 17250 Highway J. Allen attended the meeting remotely because she was on vacation.
Voting against that option were Staish Buchner, Peter Lehmann and Kathy Strecker.
Six members of the public spoke in favor of keeping the school in Lafayette, with some citing concerns the Highway I location was too dangerous for a school.
Heinz agreed the best course of action was to keep the school in Lafayette.
“Our duty as a board is to make sure the location we put this in is objectively the one that makes the most sense to place a school for what’s likely to be the next 100 years,” she said.
Buchner supported the view of those who favored keeping the school at its current location, saying less acreage isn’t a problem if the building expands upward instead of out. He also objected to the district buying more land, saying some might perceive the district as “land barons.”
Czech objected to that sentiment, saying it’s not often the district gets an opportunity to buy 37 acres of property, noting the middle and high schools are on property that both schools are outgrowing.
“We need that land while it’s available,” he said.
The board was prompted to include language in the motion that dollars need to be available from elsewhere to buy the land after learning from business manager Chad Trowbridge that referendum dollars can’t be used to buy the property.
Some of that money could come from the district’s plan to sell the 19-acre parcel it owns east of the intersection of Highways I and 178. Czech previously said the district could sell that parcel back to the county for $292,000.
A special session was held Thursday to break a tie vote Tuesday during a meeting over whether to keep the school in the town of Lafayette.
The district will wait to develop plans on selling the site where students currently attend school.
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