The century-old LaCrosse High School would be closed and replaced with a new facility in Wanatah, under a recommendation from Tri-Township School Superintendent Kelly Shepherd.
He says the 1915 school building is showing its age. “Specifically, we’ve got real concerns about the HVAC system and the electric,” Shepherd says. “It’s taking a lot of funds to keep those things going, and if we had a failure of any sort, it would be a major number to fix that.”
But beyond that, Shepherd thinks moving the high school to Wanatah would have a number of other advantages, such as potentially boosting enrollment. “Where we are currently located, we have a long history of a declining birth rate in this rural part of the county, so by moving up to Wanatah, it puts us closer to a lot more students,” he says.
The hope is that the move would not only help Tri-Township retain the students who live in the district but might also attract out-of-district students by being closer to the Valparaiso area. Shepherd says it would also bring the high school closer to vocational classes at the A.K. Smith Career Center in Michigan City, along with internship opportunities at Valparaiso businesses.
He also projects that consolidating Tri-Township’s schools at one location could lead to hundreds of thousands of dollars in cost savings, in part, by reducing support staff and teaching positions. “Once we are on one campus, we may not need three math teachers to accommodate all of our students,” Shepherd explains. “We may not need three science teachers to accommodate all of our high school and middle school students.” But Shepherd says any decrease in the number of teaching positions would be done through attrition, rather than a formal reduction in force.
As for what would happen to the current high school, Shepherd says school officials haven’t figured that out yet. He stresses that the decision to close the building is not one that school officials take lightly. “We know this is an emotional thing, even just the consideration of this, because it’s such a historic building here in LaCrosse, has a great history,” Shepherd says. “I absolutely love it here. I feel at home here, and so we want to make the right decisions for our students in the long term because we want Tri-Township Schools to be around another 100 years.”
Members of the public have a couple chances to learn more about the plan, along with its tax implications. Public meetings will take place Thursday, February 27 and Wednesday, March 4 at 6:00 p.m. in the Tiger Den at LaCrosse High School.
Going forward, Shepherd says architects from Performance Services will be updating a facility study from 2015, to get some newer figures related to the school’s condition. The superintendent presented the recommendation to the school board last week, but he says board members haven’t taken any formal action yet.