Plan would consolidate and update to create safe, efficient and modern schools
Responding to an extensive planning process that began in 2017 to assess and address Oshkosh schools, the Oshkosh Area School District (OASD) School Board approved a four-phase plan to consolidate and update its schools, most of which were built more than 50 years ago.
The plan, which would require voter-approved capital funding spread out over the coming decades, would reduce the number of schools from 20 to 14 to maximize their use and efficiency by updating many, closing some and building two new schools. The consolidation plan is based on recommendations from a Facility Advisory Committee that met several times, reviewed enrollment data, facilities studies, and other data points to address the following criteria for Oshkosh schools:
- Safe and accessible buildings
- Flexible and collaborative learning spaces
- Cost-effective buildings that maximize taxpayer investment
A facilities study showed that simply updating all of Oshkosh’s schools for safety, accessibility and deferred maintenance would cost more than $115 million, and often called for investments in aging buildings that exceeded the industry standard for wise renovation costs. By approving the four-phase plan, the School Board provided the community with a long-range blueprint for updating its schools over the next 10-20 years.
Key facts about Oshkosh schools that challenge the District’s ability to provide the education students deserve and that prepares them for the future:
- Nearly three-quarters of the schools were built before 1970, so are more than 50 years old
- Average age of OASD schools is 66 years old
- The oldest school building was built in 1880
- Only two schools were built in the 21st century
- Last time there was a capital funding request was in 2012 to build Oaklawn Elementary School; before that, it was 1999 to build Jefferson Elementary School
- Oshkosh schools are older than most neighboring districts
“Oshkosh is a great community, but we need to improve and invest in our schools to ensure our students are future-ready,” said Superintendent Dr. Vickie Cartwright. “Thanks to the work of the Facility Advisory Committee and the strategic vision of our School Board, we now have a comprehensive long-range plan to do just that.”
The four-phase plan would be funded through voter-approved bonds and would begin with a capital request brought to voters in the near future for Phase 1:
- Replace Merrill Middle School with a new school of greater capacity to serve both Webster and Merrill middle school students
- Replace Webster Elementary School with a new school of greater capacity to serve both Webster and Washington elementary school students
- Close Washington and Merrill elementary schools
- Move Merrill Elementary students to Emmeline Cook, Read, Oaklawn, and the new elementary school via boundary changes
- The end result: Five current schools (Merrill Middle, Merrill Elementary, Webster Middle, Webster Elementary, Washington Elementary) would be replaced with a new middle school on the Merrill site and a new elementary school on the Webster site
The other three phases would come in future years when the community was in a position to approve additional funding:
- Phase 2:
- Replace or remodel South Park Middle School with a new school of greater capacity
- Remodel various elementary schools to modernize learning spaces and increase capacity for additional students
- Repurpose Perry Tipler Middle School and Shapiro STEM Academy
- Close Roosevelt Elementary School, Perry Tipler Middle School, and Shapiro STEM Academy
- Phase 3: Replace or renovate Oshkosh West High School
- Phase 4: Replace or renovate Oshkosh North High School
“An investment in our schools is an investment in our future,” said Cartwright. “Research shows that home values are tied to quality schools, and our businesses rely on quality schools - both to provide them with qualified workers and to attract families to our community. We are excited to continue building community through education by working together to support our schools.”
More information about the planning process and recommendations is available at www.oshkosh.k12.wi.us/district/facilities-advisory-committee.
District leaders will begin holding community meetings to share the plans and respond to questions. Over the next few months, the School Board will review funding options and determine when to approach voters with the Phase 1 funding request.