Waukesha Middle School Boundaries to be Reviewed
Committee to consider options for relieving crowding at Butler Middle School.
More options and information are necessary before members of the Waukesha School Board’s Finance and Facilities Committee can make a recommendation about changing attendance boundaries for the city’s middle schools, according to discussion of the issue at Monday night’s committee meeting.
Currently, Butler Middle School is operating at capacity and unless changes are made, will be overcapacity by about 40 to 50 students next year, said Superintendent Todd Gray.
Under consideration are middle school attendance boundaries for Blair, Hawthorne and White Rock elementary schools.
When the district was planning to transfer sixth grade to the middle schools, they were concerned about crowding at Central Middle School, the smallest of the city’s three middle schools.
However, with the opening of the Waukesha STEM Academy-Saratoga Campus relieving pressure on Central Middle School and in reviewing actual enrollment numbers, the district has discovered that enrollment at Butler Middle School is more of a concern.
“Quite honestly, we should have made the change last year,” Gray said, but they held off out of concern about potential crowding at Central. That concern was never realized because more than 200 students who would have been at Central this year now attend the new STEM school.
For next year, Gray proposed that children from White Rock Elementary attend Horning and Central middle schools, not Butler, for sixth grade. Currently, they are split between all three of the middle schools.
He also proposed having children from Blair attend Central Middle School, as opposed to Butler, a move that was not popular with two of the committee members.
Gray said he suggested the change for Blair because Blair was the next closest elementary school to Central, which would mean less time and expense for busing. Also, it was the right amount of students needed to bring down Butler’s numbers and it didn’t split a neighborhood like other changes would, he said.
The core of the problem is that Waukesha’s middle schools are not strategically placed, Gray said.
“Central and Butler are not that far apart,” he said.
Another complicating factor is the development and growth in the south and west areas of the city, which are closest to Butler Middle School.
School Board member Joe Como suggested that district staff look at attendance boundaries in some of the outlying areas, possible shifting a few borders to solve the problem at Butler.
School Board member Steve Edlund said that he lives between Blair and Butler and spoke to parents in the area. None of them are in favor of changing schools. Blair is three blocks away from Butler and Hawthorne is four blocks away.
He also said that the ability to walk to school was a draw for homeowners in the area and making a change like this could affect property values.
“That’s the number one concern of constituents in the area,” he said.
Waukesha School Board President Dan Warren said that the lack of ability to predict attendance calls into question the practicality of the district’s school choice program, which allows families to chose which schools their children attend, as long as capacity permits. This year, school choice into Butler was closed because of the school’s capacity.
The Finance and Facilities Committee will review the issue at its next meeting in April.