Sun Prairie considers possibility of building second high school

SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. (WMTV) - - The Sun Prairie School District hosted an open house Tuesday night for community members to ask questions and learn more about the two referendum questions they will be voting on come the April election.

The event took place in the library of the Sun Prairie High School, currently the city's only high school. The first question is regarding the costs of constructing a new second high school, improving existing secondary schools, rebuilding Ashley Field so it can be used as a shared athletic facility, and removing the Prairie Phoenix Academy and former Early Learning Resource Center buildings. Those projects would cost $164,000,000.00

The second question concerns operational matters, such as maintenance costs for the new school and teacher compensation, for $5,000,000.00.

The second high school would be in response to Sun Prairie's growing population.

"It takes three years to build a high school, and so we are planning ahead to make certain that as our population grows in Sun Prairie, we have the facilities to be able to hold students," said superintendent Brad Saron.

Saron said that the current high school student body has grown over the target capacity, and the rest of the district is growing with it.

"The classes that we are graduating out of this system proudly are smaller than the classes that are enrolling into the system in four-year-old kindergarten and actual five-year-old kindergarten," he said.

That growth is only projected to continue at a rapid pace.

"We're growing anywhere from 150 to 250 kids a year, that is about building a new elementary school every other year," said school board president Steve Schroeder. "Now of course all those kids don't come at the elementary level, but that's how rapidly this school district is growing, and again all of the data points to the growth continuing."

If the second high school is approved, both high schools in Sun Prairie would be on a 9th through 12th grade system. Saron also said that both would have similar facilities to ensure students received the same opportunities at both.

"The Secondary School Space Planning Committee, our committee of citizens that made a recommendation to the board, recommended that we go to a second high school, but that second high school have the same basic amenities as our existing high school," he said. "Meaning that it has to have a field house, it has to have a swimming pool, it has to have a performing arts center of really similar size."

That also means that there could be the possibility of a second football team. The current Ashley Field would be renovated to be the home field for athletics.

"Ashley Field is sort of the jewel of our downtown area, and the community really elected through a survey to maintain that facility as the competitive field for our athletics in a two high school system," said Saron. "So they would have practices at their individual high schools, but Ashley Field would be the competition field."

These multi-million dollar projects would cost tax payers. The current estimate is about $128 tax impact per $100,000.00 of value on a home, said Saron.

While Schroeder said realistically no one likes increased taxes, everyone should be invested in public education.

"The number one reason people and businesses move to Sun Prairie is because of our schools," he said. "We have amazing schools, we need great facilities and room in those facilities to be able to house the students."