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The Caledonia village board gave its blessing on the referendum question on whether village residents want to pursue forming its own independent school district, a question that will be on the April 7 ballot. The decision was met with applause by about 30 residents in the audience after the unanimous vote was taken at a special board meeting that took minutes to complete on Jan. 26. The purpose of the advisory referendum will allow the village board and state Legislators to gauge the public’s interest in forming the district so that they can decide on whether to move forward with a feasibility study.. Kathy Burton, former Caledonia village trustee, supports the idea of forming a Caledonia School District, but she said she still wants to make sure it’s possible for the village to do. “My goals in this were: to have the people have a voice and to get the information,” Burton said.”We need to know the costs. And I don’t know what those numbers are. But we’ve accomplished step number one.” Caledonia village trustee Kevin Wanggaard said putting the advisory referendum on the ballot gives the citizenry of Caledonia the opportunity to voice their opinion on the issue. “It’s also going to wake-up Unified a little bit and help drive us to build something that is better for the kids,” he said. If the advisory referendum passes on April 7, the village board will then need to decide on whether to spend $30,000 on updating a feasibility study that will check what the costs and tax implications are to forming an independent school district. But by no means is a potential divorce from Racine Unified a done deal. As it stands now, Racine Unified would need to give its blessing to Caledonia to separate from the district.The group behind forming the independent school district wants state Legislators to change the law to allow communities to separate from unified school districts if they choose to through a referendum. But a change in state law would apply any school district in the state that wanted to dissolve its relationship with a unified school district. The rule change would also allow school districts to join a unified school district if it was feasible to do so and the communities wanted to support such an arrangement. Sen. Van Wannggaard (R-Racine), who attended the meeting, supports allowing the citizens of Caledonia to decide whether they want to form their own school district. “This is about giving the potential student the best education, but it also gives the municipality…is ownership,” Van said. “If you have ownership in your school system and you feel like there’s value to it, you’ll get more value out of it.”

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In addition to our education features, we’ll be kicking off a series of stories highlighting how parents, students, and educators are adapting to the impact of COVID-19 on education. If this is important to you, please consider donating to our education reporting fund. https://business.facebook.com/donate/1846323118855149/3262802717172659/

Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.