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School Board Votes to Study Splitting the District

The Monona Grove School Board tackles a new question: what to do now?

After the district's referendum failed last week, officials are now debating how to deal with the overcrowding in their schools. It's shaping up to be a long, confusing discussion.

It was a divisive week for a number of residents in both Monona and Cottage Grove after 91% of Monona residents voted against the school referendum and 77% of Cottage Grove residents supported it.

Wednesday night the Monona Grove School Board invited representatives of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance to present viable options on where they can go from here.

They talked about four options:

1. Stay as one district while addressing space/growth issues by expanding schools.

2. Split the district into two separate districts. [The big question there is whether Monona would then have a declining enrollment which could cost them future state aide.]

3. Split the district into two separate K-8 districts with one unified high school.

4. Annex to another school district. [For example, if Monona and Cottage Grove split and then Cottage Grove merged with Deerfield or another nearby district.]

The board voted to authorize up to $25,000 to the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance so it can conduct a study on two of the four options. They'll look at how splitting the district into two separate K-12s and two separate K-8s with one high school [options 2 and 3] would financially impact the district.

Monona Grove Superintendent Gary Schumacher says, "It's a topic we've wrestled with for almost 10 years now. It's frustrating because we haven't been able to find the answer to the issue. So it's something we're going to continue to study, continue to look at, and obviously we need to solve it."

"We need to be able to come to a place where we're working for each other's benefit and that we're all working together to make something good happen," says Mark Nelson, co-chair of Friends of Monona Grove Schools, " I think if both sides can empathize and look at the needs of the other I think a good solution will come."

Nelson worked on the "Yes" campaign for the referendum. While he supports the study, some residents at the meeting expressed concern about the cost of it, suggesting that money could be better spent elsewhere.

Schumacher says his main concern is that the quality of educational programming remains intact, no matter which option is decided on.

While none of the school board members were thrilled about the study, they felt they had exhausted all other options.

The study is expected to begin this summer.

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