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Merrill schools seeking more public input on overcrowding issue

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MERRILL, Wis. (WSAU) - Earlier this week, the Merrill School Board took no action to move 5th graders to the Middle School building to alleviate overcrowding at the elementary buildings.

District Superintendent Walter Leipart believes the most cost neutral solution is to make that move, but he’s open to any new ideas.

Leipart says the School Board is not likely to take any action on this issue at the November 17th meeting, because they want more community input before moving forward. “What we’re doing at this time is we’re requesting for some community feedback and some thoughts and considerations that they believe we should be looking at before we go ahead and make a move such as taking the fifth grade up to the middle school, and so we’re really opening the doors and saying give us your feedback, give us your reasonable, sustainable solutions that we can consider.”

Leipart says the overcrowding has the most impact at two buildings. “At Jeffereson Elementary, we’re using two portables (classrooms) to relieve some of the congestion that’s there. The facility itself and the enrollment that we’re trying to get into the building is actually at 109% capacity.”

The Superintendent says this overcrowding problem is not a short term thing that will go away in a few years. He says the declining enrollments have begun to level off. “The numbers of fifth graders this year in relationship to the number of kindergartners this year, those numbers are very similar now. We did go through a time where we were losing 30 to 40 kids per grade level every year. We still have that issue kind of going on at the high school, but again, what we see is that there is this kind of plateauing of our enrollment.”

Leipart encourages Merrill district residents to contact the district office & their building principals along with School Board members so they can gather as much feedback as possible before making a final decision.

(The interview with Superintendent Leipart can be heard in our Newsmakers Interview podcast, here."

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