Vote Determines Future of Neenah Buildings


Ty Cianciolo and Noelle Schumacher

The Neenah Joint School District is looking to develop itself and its infrastructure. This April, residents will have the opportunity to decide if a new high school is warranted.

Last spring, voters in Neenah and surrounding communities rejected a $130 million referendum that planned to build a new middle school building, replacing the current Shattuck Middle School at the same location. A narrow window of about 2 percent of voters was all it took to stop the district’s plan in its tracks. Now, the school board is back with a new proposal: to build a new high school and place fifth -to eighth-graders in the current Neenah high.

Communication Manager Jim Strick

This plan is just a step in one of the five “pathways” the Board of Education has planned. According to The Post-Crescent, “Each of the pathways calls for the construction of one or two new middle schools or a new high school. Each option also includes the closure of two or three elementary schools.”

Jim Strick, communications manager for N.J.S.D, works to inform residents of the different options of each pathway, so they can make an informed decision when voting. He emphasized how much community engagement influences the board’s decisions. Last year, a reported 17 percent of the community responded to a survey about the pathways. The school board reviewed the survey, and used it to create a ballot that they sent to the state. If residents interact directly from the beginning with the survey, they can influence the choices they will have on the ballot this next April.

There are also district meetings to gather feedback from the community in July and August. The pathway is not set in stone, and communication from the community and the school board will help it adapt.

Compared with last year’s proposal, this pathway impacts more grades. The former would only have affected the seventh- and eighth-graders that attend Shattuck Middle School. Strick reported that many people were not in favor of an expensive plan that had such a small effect. Voters might be more interested in a change for the high school, as they have a bigger impact on the community. They can be an investment for a city, as they can draw in people looking for somewhere to move and contribute to lowering crime rates and rising local business.

Strick compared the old and the new financially, saying that a big difference this year is that this year the district is contributing $47 million from the annual budget for the proposed project. Although the plan has not been totally finalized, it looks like taxes will be affected less than last year.

“Last year, the tax impact was $167 dollars for every $1,000 of property value. This year the increase is projected to be about $121 for the same amount of property value,” Strick said.

While this financial aspect may appease some voters, there is still the question of whether those resources could go to improving current infrastructure and curriculum, instead of a lengthy construction program.

Whatever voters decide on  April 7 will have a lasting impact on the community and students.