Referendum Failure Brings New Ideas to the Table


Garrett Luepke and Josh Brazee

Referendums cause change.

Last year N.J.S.D. proposed a referendum in which the current Shattuck Middle School would be demolished and a new middle school would be built on the same property. The plan was also going to update areas in need of work and expansion at the current high school. In the end, the vote was extremely close, but it did not pass. With the recent purchase of a 225-acre lot, new plans are being developed and decisions are being made on what to do with this new opportunity at hand. Differing plans of change in the district have been discussed throughout the summer and will continue into the 2020 school year, but currently, there are two favored plans the district is looking to pursue.

One plan of action is currently known as “pathway two,” which includes demolition to the Shattuck Middle School as well as the development of a new intermediate school entirely. In detail, the new intermediate school would house fifth and sixth-grade students; being developed on the “west site,” which is what the newly purchased land is called. On top of this, a new middle school housing seventh and eighth graders would be built on the current Shattuck grounds, which was the original idea in the former plan. Overall, this project would include a $313 to $345 million  preliminary budget. 

This may seem like a hefty bill, but as district Communication Manager Jim Strick explains, these plans are not like a snow ball going downhill where once the movement is started there is no stopping it. Instead, if the community likes the updates made in the district, then updates will continue to be made, but if the community would like to give their checkbooks a break or are satisfied with the status of the district, then the referendum will be put on pause. 

The second plan is “pathway five,” utilizing the west site, constructing a new high school as well as a change of location for certain grade levels. The newly purchased west site will be used as construction grounds for a new high school, this will follow with fifth through eighth-grade students moving into the current high school. The high school would be divided into two separate ends, including two separate lunchrooms, gyms, etc. Therefore, elementary school would house fourth grade to kindergarten students. Finally, Horace Mann would become repurposed into another elementary school with a current outdated elementary school being demolished. Overall, this pathway would cost the district a bit less than pathway two with an estimated preliminary budget of $238 to $263 million.  

The decision will be made between the two pathways when the votes are tallied on the survey sent out to the tax payers in the district. This survey is due Nov. 5 according to the district website , and all citizens are implored to participate as it will mold the future of the school district in which they live. The decision as to which pathway will be followed will be known by December 2019.

Through all these plans, one part that is bothering some citizens is the west site plan for development. A hot topic of debate for citizens neighboring the west site is that it is located in the backyard of the Town of Clayton border, residents believe it is an odd place for a school to be built. Other concerns presented by neighbors to the west site is that the district may not have taken into consideration the depletion of current wildlife with people bow and gun hunting on the 225 acres of land almost year-round. 

A tax payer, Stephanie Kaul, claimed to feel invaded because of her proximity to the site, “There is a reason I live away from the city.” The last concern of this resident was the cost, pleading, “The district doesn’t gain what we lose,” showing to continue to live the “little bit of country” lifestyle she currently enjoys.  She fears being forced to up and move, an incapability for many.

She asks that the district consider focusing instead on working to improve and remodel buildings on its current properties. 

Overall, this decision will be monumental to the future lives of Neenah students for many years to come. Between building two new middle schools or building a brand new high school this changes will give the students of the N.J.S.D. different opportunities than the ones before them. The tax payers are the executives of the district who need to be involved with this important idea all the way through its process.