Future of 3 Madison Elementary Schools Uncertain

Facing declining enrollment and aging buildings, the Madison school district is embarking on a plan that would either rebuild, renovate or close three elementary schools.

The proposal is facing backlash from parents concerned about the cost and the prospect of shutting down a school.

On Sept. 26, voters will decide in a referendum whether roughly $34-million should be spent to demolish Ryerson Elementary and then build a new school in its place.

It’s hoped several million dollars in grants could defray the cost.

“I just hope people get the information and get out and vote and think what’s best for our town,” Emily Rosenthal of Madison, said.

Rosenthal was one of dozens of parents who packed a meeting with the superintendent at Island Avenue Elementary on Monday.

At some point after next Tuesday’s referendum school leaders might vote on the future of Island Avenue.

In spring 2019, it’s expected a second referendum will be held on the idea to spend about $34 million to renovate Jeffrey Elementary.

Madison Schools Superintendent Thomas Scarice believes the three-part plan is a wise investment for a district dealing with a drop in the number of students and some outdated facilities.

If it doesn’t happen, he worries about future budget fights over whether to spend money on students or to fix buildings.

“It’s really important that people are aware that a failed referendum will be more disruptive for kids,” Scarice said.

But some parents are pushing back, especially to keep Island Avenue open.

“From our perspective, it doesn’t make any sense to close the best school in town,” Chip Walz of Madison, said.

Walz formed a group which hopes people vote down next Tuesday’s referendum. He argues to instead renovate the schools.

“We are in favor of neighborhood schools and we’re very in favor of saving tax dollars for things that actually educate our children,” Walz said.

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