ECASD Superintendent talks about $98.6 million dollar referendum on the ballot in November

Published: Aug. 16, 2022 at 1:06 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Monday night, the Eau Claire Area School District approved a referendum question for the upcoming November ballot. The district is looking to generate $98.6 million dollars for the capital-only referendum to address aging school buildings and the increase in enrollment.

WEAU’s Bob Gallaher spoke with superintendent Mike Johnson about the referendum as well as other concerns on the minds of parents heading into the upcoming school year.

“We need to share that message that our students deserve a safe, and inviting and engaging learning environment.”

Entering his third year as superintendent of the ECASD, Mike Johnson says the capital-only referendum that will be on the ballot in November is an investment in our children’s future.

“It’s going to be because of the age of our facilities and infrastructure number one and number two because of our enrollment. For the four major projects that we have, Putnam Heights and North High it’s because of enrollment and we need to increase classroom space and size for that enrollment. And for the other schools, especially at South but also including Memorial, it’s the age of those facilities,” Johnson said.

If approved by voters, the referendum would cost homeowners 40 cents per $1,000 of property value. For a home worth $100,000, that would mean around $40 per year.

“As homeowners we have to maintain our homes and this is district property, this is the property of our taxpayers and we need to take care of those facilities,” Johnson said.

On the COVID front, in the past week the CDC has relaxed COVID protocols for schools ahead of the new school year, social distancing is no longer required and kids can still attend classes if they have been exposed to the virus.

Johnson says the school district will be transitioning from a pandemic phase to an endemic phase.

“We have learned so much from this but I think families are going to be relieved, we are very confident we are going to have a fantastic school year for our kids where they are going to be in school,” Johnson said. “They learn best when they are in school with minimal disruption whatsoever so we create that safe environment for our students as well as our staff and and our families benefit as well.”

Even as many school districts across the state are facing a bus driver shortage, Johnson says Jim Fey, Vice-President of Operations at Student Transit says they’re good to go when the buses roll out on September 1st.

“Occasionally, there will be opportunities where the leadership at Student Transit does have a route or two when we have an absence. And they are prepared for that, they have done that over the course of the past couple of years. But we are very confident that we are going to start the year strongly with our transportation as well to allow for those activities and events to transport kids safely to and from,” Johnson said.

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