School District of La Crosse to close Lincoln Middle School

The Board of Education also approved an operational referendum totaling $60 million to be placed on April’s ballot.
School District of La Crosse
School District of La Crosse(WEAU)
Published: Jan. 24, 2023 at 2:34 PM CST
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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) - The School District of La Crosse’s Board of Education voted to close Lincoln Middle School at a board meeting on Monday night.

In a release, the District said that the decision was “difficult” and said that projected budget deficits and underfunding by Wisconsin’s legislature for public education were the reasons for closing the school.

“The difficult decision to close Lincoln Middle School was made humbly and will proceed with every intent to mitigate the effects on those that will feel the change the most,” the District said in a release.

The District said it is facing a $5 million budget deficit in the 2023-24 school year, which will rise to over $10 million over the next six years. In addition to seeking money in referenda, the District has eliminated 40 positions as a cost-cutting measure.

Another big impact on the District’s finances is the declining enrollment, which is affecting most districts in Wisconsin. According to the release, middle schools in the School District of La Crosse are operating at 47% of capacity, so the District is consolidating from three to two middle school facilities to save over $5 million in maintenance.

“With the referendum, funds will be made available to improve the remaining middle schools to address accessibility, safety and instructional needs,” the District said in a press release. “As we navigate the consolidation, we will walk alongside our families and staff to ensure the best possible transition.”

In addition to voting on closing the middle school, the Board of Education also approved a non-recurring operational referendum for the April election. The referendum seeks $60 million over six years, with $6.25 million the first year (2023-24) and $10.75 million for the remaining five years. The first year of the operational referendum would overlap with the final year of a previously-approved referendum, which was approved by voters in the spring of 2018 and provides $4,175,000 to the District.

Last fall, voters overwhelmingly rejected a $194.7 million referendum that would have consolidated the District’s two high schools and funded conversions to the existing high school buildings to turn them into middle schools, among other projects.