Waukesha Whittier, Hadfield school consolidation proposal worries parents

Whittier and Hadfield, two Waukesha elementary schools, could soon become one, impacting taxpayers and students with special needs.

Faced with dwindling enrollment and a budget shortfall, the superintendent says it only makes sense to combine two of the district’s elementary schools, but even that won’t be enough to get out of the red.

When Kelsey Draves sends her two kids to Whittier each morning, she knows they are in good hands, especially her son, Augie, who has autism.

"They are able to help him with all his big emotions, and he’s able to really thrive in that environment," said Draves.

She’s worried his small class size will double if the district moves forward with plans to combine Whittier and Hadfield elementary schools.  She says both have a large number of students with special needs.

"Their plan to close a school down and combine them in eight months, from now until Sept. 1, that seems so quick!" said Draves.

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The proposal would close Whittier and merge students and staff with Hadfield, a school originally built in the 1880s.  Superintendent Jim Sebert said the move could save the district nearly a million dollars during a $3 million budget shortfall.

"We are getting to the point now where we think we have to make some more bold-type decisions over the next couple of budget cycles in order to make the district financially sustainable for the long haul," said Sebert.

Over the last decade, Sebert says enrollment is down district-wide by 2,000 students.  He says Hadfield and Whittier are both at 50% capacity.  The district hopes a merge will strengthen special education resources by bringing them under one roof.

"To really provide what we think is a higher level of support," said Sebert.

Three years ago, the district also closed Blair Elementary School.  Sebert couldn’t answer how much it costs to maintain the empty building.

"The school district knows the cost of everything – how much it costs for a building to run, how many students are in their schools, but do they understand the value of these children?" said Draves.

The district will hold a series of three listening sessions with the public to discuss these plans:

  • Thursday, Feb. 3 - 6:00 p.m. in the Whittier library
  • Monday, Feb. 14 - 6:00 p.m. in the Hadfield library
  • Thursday, Feb. 24 - 5:00 p.m. in the Les Paul cafeteria

The school board will make a final decision in March.

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