Waukesha School Board Approves Early Learning Center at White Rock
Program, which is projected to save district money, is slated for fall of 2012.
The Waukesha School Board approved changing White Rock Elementary School into a center for early childhood learning next year by unanimous vote Wednesday night.
With this plan, Spanish and English 4-year-old kindergarten and early childhood special education classes would be offered at the White Rock location, instead of at other school district buildings. The change will allow the district to free up space in other schools, especially in the elementary schools where there has been increasing enrollments in the lower grades.
The district predicts that the plan will save money by utilizing a building that was scheduled to be closed and consolidating a program that is spread throughout the district, saving transportation, staffing, and materials and supplies costs.
According to the district, the center will be cost-effective and will provide an exceptional learning and teaching environment for students, families and school district staff.
One concern for the district was whether the community partners who also offer 4-year-old kindergarten programs in the conjunction with the school district would be in agreement with the district regarding this new center.
But according to representatives from three of the partner organizations, the Montessori School of Waukesha, St. Luke’s preschool and the YMCA, the community partners endorse the creation of an early childhood center at White Rock.
“There are some great opportunities here,” said Bill Walsh from the Montessori School of Waukesha. “Certainly, we would like to continue to be a part of this and support it anyway we can,”
School Board Member Steve Edlund questioned starting a new program at White Rock instead of closing it in light of the uncertainty of state funding for next year.
“If the public money is cut back, this district is going to have some very hard decisions to make going forward on this particular program because it’s not a required program,” he said.
School Board Member Bill Baumgart offered another viewpoint.
“All those years, we’ve been worried about what was going to happen, when were we going to get some relief from Madison or Washington, and yet we found a way to make changes, to do the right thing for the kids in the School District of Waukesha,” Baumgart said.
“I think this is just another example of doing that. Rather than wondering when the shoe was going to fall, we’re figuring out what we should do right,” he said.
Superintendent Todd Gray said that the program as proposed does save the district some money. He also said that although he had no indication that state funding for the 4k program would be cut, he does share Edlund’s concern for funding next year.
However, White Rock is available and requires no capitol upgrades to house the program, he said. Also, in addition to providing savings, the program provides the flexibility if funding is cut, Gray said, explaining that they could end the program if necessary.