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Menasha has a plan to save Jefferson Elementary and boost school enrollment

Posted at 4:59 PM, Mar 19, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-19 17:59:54-04

MENASHA (NBC 26) — The Menasha Joint School District is closing the doors to Jefferson Elementary, but they have a new idea in mind for the building.

  • Menasha parents have concerns about losing Jefferson Elementary school.
  • One concern was losing the building, but the superintendent has an idea to save it.
  • MJSD is considering adding wrap around 4K in the Jefferson building to help boost enrollment.

(The following is a transcription of the full broadcast story)

When the Menasha school board voted to close Jefferson Elementary, it opened the door to future childcare possibilities. I’m reporter Olivia Acree with how childcare could help solve the problem that led to the closure.

Menasha schools faced a $3.5 million budget deficit this year. Superintendent Matt Zimmerman says that led to some tough decisions like closing Jefferson Elementary.

“We didn’t have the enrollment to sustain the staffing there,” said Matt Zimmerman, Menasha Joint School District Superintendent.

Many Wisconsin schools face declining enrollment and Zimmerman says in Menasha it's a big factor in the deficit. But he says the district has an idea to both boost enrollment and save Jefferson.

“Jefferson could be a place where we do wrap around 4K,” said Zimmerman.

Zimmerman says enrollment took a hit because 4k is only offered for half a day. A challenge for working parents.

“They end up sometimes not having childcare on the other half of that day,” said Zimmerman.

The new idea is to have half day 4k at other elementary schools and half day childcare at Jefferson, with transportation provided by the district.

"Maybe we even have some families who might decide to open enroll to Menasha for that benefit,” said Zimmerman.

Parent Rachael Ciske says if she still had kids in childcare she'd consider it.

“If that option would've been available for me, I would've definitely considered something like that. It's a good option to have and it's needed in the valley,” said Rachael Ciske, Menasha parent.

Zimmerman says the district is saving $1 million by closing Jefferson and students and staff will transfer to Butte des Morts Elementary in the fall. Something of a concern for some parents like Ciske.

“I told people to go to Jefferson because of the class sizes. That’s a big concern for me still,” said Ciske.

But Zimmerman assures class sizes will actually become smaller.

“Now all of a sudden you have four sections that are 20 kids in each section, and you saved that staff member while keeping class sizes low,” said Zimmerman.

Before making any decisions on adding Wrap Around 4k, Zimmerman says the next step is having more conversations with the community.