Eau Claire school district Administration Building

Eau Claire school district Administration Building, 500 Main St.

EAU CLAIRE — The Eau Claire school board on Monday is slated to discuss a possible referendum in 2021.

The measure is tentatively planned for the April election. The school board hasn’t yet set a dollar amount, but planning documents and previous board discussion suggests the referendum could include a renovation at South Middle School and several Roosevelt Elementary School maintenance projects.

Projects at those two schools were eliminated from an $87.9 million referendum that passed in the district in 2016; those two projects could cost $25 to $30 million, former Eau Claire schools superintendent Mary Ann Hardebeck said in November.

Another possible contender for the referendum: Adding onto three south side elementary schools to alleviate what school administrators say is urgent overcrowding.

In July, the school district’s Demographic Trends and Facility Planning Committee formally recommended adding onto the Manz, Meadowview and Putnam Heights elementary school buildings, to the tune of $15.9 million.

Those three elementary schools are nearing 100% capacity, according to school district documents. The additions would create another 470 student seats.

The board on Monday will discuss the referendum timeline and planning. Board members are not expected to vote on the matter Monday.

Virus disrupts referendum planning

The coronavirus has interrupted the referendum planning process.

School officials floated the idea of a referendum in 2019, and the board formally set an official timeline in February 2020.

But when COVID-19 spurred school closings in March, the district had to cancel several April community listening sessions for the referendum.

Instead, the district put out a survey in the spring, asking community members to rank items in order of priority. A majority of the roughly 1,200 respondents ranked competitive teacher pay as the highest priority, and ranked building new facilities last. (Of the respondents, 34% were district employees.)

The board was tentatively scheduled to vote on the official referendum question in January, which would place it on the ballot in April.

Also on Monday’s agenda:

  • The board is set to vote on reducing the school parking permit rate from $50 for the school year to just a processing fee of $12.50. The reduction is due to “the volume of students driving to school is less than in a normal year,” according to meeting documents. If the district were to move to all-virtual classes sometime during the year, the processing fee wouldn’t be refunded, according to the proposal. The move would reduce the school district’s parking permit revenue by about $28,000.
  • School administrators will update the board on the first weeks of classes. Administrators are slated to discuss the first week of all-virtual classes, safety precautions and the hybrid model, which brought most Eau Claire students back to face-to-face classes two days a week.
  • Administrators will also update the board on the district’s 2020-21 budget.

Contact: 715-833-9206, sarah.seifert@ecpc.com, @sarahaseifert on Twitter

Sarah Seifert is the Leader-Telegram's education and health reporter. She's worked as a journalist in the Chippewa Valley since 2017 and joined the L-T in 2019. Get in touch at sarah.seifert@ecpc.com or on Twitter at @sarahaseifert.