Randy Guttenberg, Waunakee school district superintendent, gave an overview of the school district referendum coming up Nov. 8 at the Waunakee Rotary Club’s Oct. 6 meeting. He prefaced the talk by saying it’s been great having the kids back in school without all of the COVID-19 restrictions, and exciting to see the community support. 

The Waunakee school district employs about 600 people and has 4,408 students enrolled. These referendums, like all, are aimed at helping to support the students’ success. 

Waunakee school district voters will be asked two questions, the first focusing on school facilities, Heritage Elementary and Waunakee Middle School in particular.

Heritage Elementary was built in 1936 and has been added onto 13 times. The school board had to decide whether to remodel the building or move forward with other plans.

The middle school is over capacity, operating with two portable units housing four classrooms, about 100 students at all times. 

As school board members considered how to provide a modern learning environment in all of its schools with collaborative spaces and natural light, they considered the options. Growth continues to occur in the community, Randy said. 

In addition to the new building construction is a 20-year facility maintenance plan to replace roofs, carpeting, boiler systems and other building components. Of that $27 million maintenance, $6 million had been considered for Heritage Elementary alone, and was part of the reasoning behind the decision to construct a new school.. 

Randy described the history of facility planning, noting in 2010, a referendum asking whether to build a new elementary school was rejected by voters, causing the school board to engage the community and learn their priorities. They heard a more robust, longer-term vision was needed, and began planning the next phases. 

In 2020, the board of education began to work on a referendum question for the fall, but the COVID-19 pandemic put a pause on their effort. At that point, the discussion was on building a new middle school, incorporating the existing middle school into the high school campus, and concepts for Heritage Elementary. 

As the school board revisited the matter late last year, they began to ask whether Heritage should be remodeled or torn down and replaced with a new building. Looking at the projected costs to remodel, new construction seemed like a better choice. 

Demolishing Heritage Elementary created another school site, and the question was asked if the South Street location, closer to the high school and all of its facilities, would be better suited for a middle school. A community survey this spring indicated community support for keeping the middle school in the center of town and building a new Heritage Elementary at Woodland Drive, near Waunakee Intermediate School. 

The referendum plan calls for building two schools within a five-year period. One bonus is attendance boundaries would not change. 

Heritage would be built first with a completion date slated for 2024, followed by the middle school on South Street to be completed in 2026. 

Also Nov. 8, voters will also see a non-recurring operational referendum to borrow $6 million phased in over a three-year period. The school board felt that because of the volatility in the market and the uncertainty of the state’s school funding formula, they preferred a non-recurring referendum question. The funds are intended to be used to retain staff and maintain existing programs, in particular two interventionist positions to help students struggling  in math and reading. 

Randy said the idea is to maintain a stable tax levy, whether the referendum questions fail or pass. The tax rate will likely be lowered as property valuations are coming in much higher than expected. That will allow actual tax bills to be stable. The district won’t have all of the numbers in until mid October to certify the budget, so predicting the exact tax rate is difficult.

“I believe our recommendation will be significantly less than $10.89 based on our property values,” Randy said about the tax rate in place since the 2019-20 school year. 


Other News

-There is no Christmas Market in Milwaukee this year; some other outing may be planned, Bob Klostermann told the club. Bob noted that a party will be planned for the end of January to celebrate Christmas and the club’s 50th anniversary. 

-The board of directors voted to approve $5,000 for the American Red Cross hurricane recovery efforts in Florida and the Carolinas. 

-Phil Willems invited all to attend a Rotary in Lights planning meeting at 5:30 p.m. Friday. Check with Phil on the location. 




Guests: Rita DuChateau, guest of Joe Baer; Kevin Wickman, guest of Phil Willems; Barbara Townley, guest of Jon Townley.


Visiting Rotarians: None.


Birthdays: None. 


Anniversaries: Oct. 13, Ray and Harriet Statz; Oct. 19, David and Candace May

Greeters: Oct. 13, Alex Welk and Sara Whitley; Oct. 20, Phil Willems and Rich Wipperfurth; Oct. 27, Chris Zellner and Cassey Zickert.