Caledonia and Sturtevant in April narrowly voted to approve an advisory referendum to start pursuing an independent school district. Caledonia asked its board to fund a feasibility study, which was shot down 4 to 2. But the Sturtevant village board promised to budget for a study in 2016 if the referendum passed.
Now the three communities plan to form an RUSD Separation Study ad hoc committee to look at the issue.
“One of the main issues that we had when we voted on paying for the feasibility study was that we just didn’t have enough information, and it wouldn’t have addressed how forming a new district would impact other communities, and we learned that the study could cost $50,000 to $100,000,” said Caledonia village president Bob Bradley.
Bradley met with Sturtevant village president Steve Jensen and Mount Pleasant village president Jerry Garski Monday to pitch the idea of forming a six-person ad hoc committee. The three presidents have agreed to appoint two village board members each to the committee.
“Initially this was supposed to be a joint effort between the three communities, but it morphed into something different,” Bradley said. “We have an obligation to pursue this, but no one knows how much it will cost and that’s the information we’re after.”
Bradley appointed Caledonia village trustees David Prott and Kevin Wanggaard. Garski appointed Mount Pleasant village trustees David DeGroot and Gary Feest. Jansen plans to ask his board to approve the appointments of Sturtevant village trustees Chris Wright and Chris Larsen.
“Forming the ad hoc committee makes sense to me,” Jensen said. “Why just do your own thing when you can work on it collectively.”
Garski agrees that forming the ad hoc committee is a good idea, but he likes the idea of forming the committee first because it wouldn’t cost the village money to do. Still, paying for a feasibility study would need further discussion at the board level because he doesn’t have money allocated for that in the village budget.
“When the information comes back, people can see it and make their own decision,” he said. “But we’re not just talking about brick and mortar. We need to look at everything: special education, school lunches, books and all the extras that would go along with trying to do a school district.”
The ad hoc committee will also look at defining what elements need to be included in the study to satisfy state lawmakers to change a law that would allow the districts to pull out of Racine Unified..
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 can be done and the communities wanted to support such an arrangement.
“If there’s no law change, why do it?” Bradley said. “So we want to make sure this study would have the information they need.”
The committee is expected to start meeting in August.
Read more about this topic: Independent School Districts.
Editor’s Note: This version of the story clarifies that the ad hoc committee is looking at studying various alternatives in forming a new school district.