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How $317 million MMSD referendum could impact West High School

The money would mostly go to maintenance, renovations and upgrades to Madison’s four major high schools.
Published: Oct. 13, 2020 at 7:11 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - In November 2020, Madison voters will decide whether to set aside $317 million for the Madison Metropolitan School District. Almost 90 percent of the money will go toward maintenance and renovations at MMSD’s four major high schools.

“We have a long storied tradition, but the building is old,” said Karen Boran, principal at Madison West High school.

Boran said the building needs an upgrade.

“The technology, the infrastructure under which this was built is 1929, 1930,” Boran explained.

If passed, the referendum would allocate $70 million to West. Boran said they would use it to integrate new technology into classrooms.

“Behind me there’s a blackboard. I don’t even know if I buy chalk anymore,” Boran said about classrooms at West.

The money would also go to rebuilding and modernizing science labs across West and other MMSD high schools.

“All of our high schools really haven’t been touched since the 60s or the 70s, and that’s certainly the case at West High School," said Chad Wiese, MMSD Executive Director of Building and Administrative Services. Wiese added, “You’ll walk around here and see leaky sinks and gas jets that don’t work.”

Boran said she feels the money would help give equal opportunities to her students.

“The difference in the square footage between the boys' locker room and the girls' locker room, that’s not acceptable,” she explained, adding that some of the money would go toward upgrading the showers and locker space in the girls' locker room.

Accessibility is also a major goal of the referendum. For example, at West High School, the only way to access the band and orchestra rooms is one set of stairs. If the referendum passes, the school would be able to install three new elevators.

“Kids in wheelchairs or kids who have other mobility issues would be able to participate in our performances,” Boran said.

Madison high school students are not in school buildings this fall because of the COVID-19 pandemic. NBC15 asked why voters should allocate the money in 2020 when the district has not set a date when students will be back in the building.

“You’re getting more for your money now,” Boran said.

Wiese added, “We will put lots of people to work, building these schools, rebuilding these schools.”

Boran added it is not about the money, but she wants these changes for her students.

“The opportunity to be able to not only show that we care about our students, we care about their future and that we care enough about them to invest in our students now and the students in the future means the world to me,” she said.

If the referendum passes, Boran said West High School would reach out to students and the community to get input on what classrooms and new science labs should look like and what other spaces could be created with the extra funding.

This referendum would also allocate money to relocating Capital High and building a new elementary school. It would also invest $2 million in sustainability initiatives.

There is one other MMSD referendum on the Madison ballot. To find out what is on your ballot, go to myvote.wi.gov and click on “What’s On My Ballot?”

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