GREEN BAY (NBC 26) — In less than two weeks, the Green Bay Area Public School District Board of Education is set to vote on recommendations that could reshape the school district long-term.
On May 8, a facilities task force recommended to the school board that 12 buildings — including 11 schools — close or be used in a different way.
Wednesday night, parents, students, and other community members spoke out to the school board over the recommendations.
"We all agree that changes are needed," Shannon Strohfeldt said. "We just want them to be as fiscally responsible and as demographically equitable as they can be."
"Without my wonderful building to house this space for education, I don't know where I'd be," Lyle Cardwell said, an 8th grader at Leonardo da Vinci School for Gifted Learners.
They spoke out with passion.
"As a member of the Joannes Park Neighborhood Association Board, I want to advocate for my neighbors, because I guarantee there are neighbors that are affected by this that are doing shift work right now," Strohfeldt said in an interview.
Strohfeldt and many community members spoke out to the school board at a public forum at Washington Middle School's auditorium.
The school board only listened to the feedback it received from the public.
"Tank (Elementary) School offers that place where they come together, and learn to work together, and have hope for a better future," David Charles said.
The facilities task force proposed that Doty, Tank, Wequiock, and da Vinci schools to close.
Da Vinci has been ranked as the top elementary and middle school in Wisconsin by U.S. News & World Report.
According to the recommendations, on the west side of the Fox River, Tank students would move to Fort Howard. On the east side, Doty students would go to Langlade and Eisenhower, Wequiock to Red Smith, and da Vinci to Webster.
Several people advocated for da Vinci, including principal Tammy Van Dyke.
"As an educator, I do not see the educational benefits of moving da Vinci," Van Dyke said.
"I love my building because of my principals and my teachers," da Vinci 1st grader Laci Cardwell said.
"I have a passion for my education and I believe that the students who follow me should share the same love for learning," Lyle Cardwell said in an interview.
"A lot of people are really happy in our schools exactly the way they are," GBAPS School Board President Laura McCoy said before the forum.
But McCoy said with aging buildings and declining enrollment, change is necessary.
The facilities task force has said the District's enrollment projection in 10 years is that one in three seats will be empty.
Right now, one in four seats are empty.
McCoy said the District also has a looming $20 million budget deficit for next year.
"This decision has to happen, and we need to get at it," McCoy said.
On June 5, the school board is set to vote on which recommendations to look into further.
"I'm here to listen, as are all of the other board members," McCoy said. "That is our job, and we're happy to do it."