WEST ALLIS — As he stepped to the microphone, West Allis resident Tracy Stefanski did not mince words.
“I’m really disgusted,” Stefanski told elected shcool officials. “This is about kids, their emotions, their feelings and what’s going on. You guys need to think about what you’re doing and who you’re affecting.”
Stefanski was one of about a half-dozen residents who aired grievances against the West Allis-West Milwaukee School Board on Monday, Feb. 27, as a vote on where displaced Lincoln Intermediate School students would attend classes in the 2017-18 school year and beyond.
After a robust discussion at Monday’s meeting, board members voted to move the entire Lincoln student body to Frank Lloyd Wright Intermediate School in the fall. The buildings are about two-miles apart.
The board’s 6-3 vote means changes are afoot this fall. Daniel Bailey, Stephanie Emons and Bill Ustruck were the board members voting against the plan. Lincoln is closing due to declining enrollment.
Stefanski and other concerned parents, in particular, took aim at a perceived lack of communication about the transition plans. Many of the speakers said they were blindsided by the news, though district officials countered, saying the decisions had been discussed in public board meetings.
Part of the reason West Allis-West Milwaukee didn’t trumpet the news in advance was logistical, Superintendent Marty Lexmond said.
“I think it’s fair that we get some critique for the process,” Lexmond said. “But we don’t control when offers (to purchase property) come in. Until it’s real, there’s no action to be taken.”
In January, the school board voted to sell the district offices, 1205 S. 70th St., the building next door housing the alternative school and bridges. All ancillary properties also were sold for a total of $6.75 million. The infusion of dollars will bring much-needed funds to the cash-strapped district. The plan is to move the alternative high school and bridges into the under-utilized Lincoln. The building also is tagged for the location of a pilot Next Generation high school and other uses.
Throughout the past month, West Allis-West Milwaukee officials explored a variety of options for the displaced Lincoln students. One proposal included redrawing all of the district’s intermediate school boundaries.
Under this proposal, Lincoln students would have attended a mix of schools. In addition to Frank Lloyd Wright, Lane and West Milwaukee intermediate schools were under consideration as hosts for the Lincoln students.
But after studying enrollment projections, district officials said they believe Frank Lloyd Wright, which has more square footage than the average West Allis-West Milwaukee school, would be able to accommodate the students.
“We’ve been talking about keeping the kids together because they value that,” said Beth Koehler, chief advancement officer.