Superior consolidation committee grapples with options

Closing an elementary school could help address an expected $4 million budget shortfall in the 2024-2025 school year.

Buses are parked in Superior.
Jed Carlson / 2015 File / Superior Telegram

SUPERIOR — Members of the Superior School District’s School Consolidation Advisory Committee were feeling the weight of their position during a Thursday, March 2 meeting.

The group has been tasked with recommending one of three options to the board:

  • Close Four Corners Elementary School
  • Close Lake Superior Elementary School
  • Keep all six elementary schools open

At the end of the meeting, District Administrator Amy Starzecki took a “dipstick” measurement of their thoughts. The majority of the participants were in favor of keeping all six schools open. Reasons ranged from concerns over long bus rides to the impact the loss of a connected neighborhood school would have on student mental health.
“The kids cannot suffer for this,” one member said.

School boundaries.jpg
Superior School District's current elementary school boundaries.
Contributed / Superior School District

Officials are looking at the possibility of consolidating its six elementary schools into five based on decreasing student enrollment, buildings that aren’t being used to their capacity and state budget constraints. The move could help offset an expected $4 million budget shortfall in the 2024-2025 school year when federal pandemic relief dollars run out. Regardless of the committee's decision, school district officials will update elementary school boundaries that year.

The benefit of school consolidation is that the district will save money every year, Starzecki said. Another option to make up the expected shortfall would be to make significant staffing and program reductions; a third option, and one the district is not pursuing, would be asking voters to approve an operating referendum.


“This is the situation, really, our state has put us in, and if we’re not getting additional revenue to fund these programs and these staffing allocations then we have to make these reductions,” Starzecki said. “Yes, it will impact morale, and yes, there will be staffing reductions. I will say that if we don’t close a school, there'll be twice as many staffing reductions, so that’s why we want to come and see if this is a possible solution to our budget situation.”

The cost for a teacher is roughly $100,000 in salary and benefits per year, she said.

Superior seeks input on consolidating elementary schools

Even if assessed property values rise in the district, that doesn’t translate to more money for schools unless the state increases the per pupil revenue cap, which has been frozen since 2017.

“Right now I can only basically charge the community $10,000 per pupil. I cannot increase that dollar amount legally,” said business manager Shannon Grindell.

Lake Superior and Four Corners, built in 1985, are the district’s oldest elementary school buildings. They also have the smallest student populations — 148 and 198, respectively, at the September 2022 count. If one is going to be closed, Starzecki told the group, it is better to know sooner rather than later because the rural schools have significant facility needs that need to be addressed, including roofing, structural repairs and a wastewater system upgrade.

“Do we have an obligation as a school district to run our schools as efficiently as possible? Do we have an obligation to our taxpayers to run our schools efficiently? If we can see savings, do we have that obligation?” Starzecki asked the group.

Committee members asked for population demographics, estimates of bus ride times and routes if a school were closed, and questioned whether savings from closing a school would be offset by an increase in transportation costs.

At the wrap up of the meeting, Starzecki asked if the group would prefer to have their stand on the issue summarized and shared with the board instead of handing down a recommendation.


“My observation, just in watching you guys is I think this is a very emotional and hard decision, regardless of whether you work of have children who attend any of the schools that we’re considering,” Starzecki said. “And are we putting too much pressure on you to make a decision that impacts a large group of people?”

The school board will make the final decision, she said, but the committee’s recommendation carries weight.

“I told them if you’re going to ask a committee to do the work, you should listen to the committee,” Starzecki said.

The group’s third meeting will take place from 4-6:30 p.m. March 23 in the board office conference room.

Parents, meanwhile, have launched both a Save LSE (Lake Superior Elementary) Facebook page and one for Save Four Corners School . Visit the district website to view the slideshow for the first meeting , held Feb. 20, and the second , held Thursday.

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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