Third, fourth grades would be added to school
By Robert Cloud
A group of parents asked the Waupaca School Board to reconfigure the classes at Chain Elementary School to become a 4K through fourth-grade facility.
Currently, Chain students transfer to Waupaca Learning Center after second grade.
Nikki Vergauwen addressed the school board at its Feb. 9 meeting. She presented a petition signed by more than 50 people and was accompanied by about two dozen parents who support adding two more grades to the school.
“Let the second-grade students stay there for third grade and then fourth grade, and then go on to middle school,” Vergauwen said. “All students expect to attend elementary, then middle, then high school. Having an additional move in the middle of elementary years is not best practice, according to research.”
The parents’ group presented data to the board showing Chain students consistently score higher than WLC students on the state exams they take in third grade.
They attribute the higher scores in large part to the Chain having significantly fewer students.
WLC has approximately 700 students, while the Chain has less than 140 students.
“This change would not only benefit our children and our families, it would be a huge benefit to WLC, as well,” Vergauwen said.
Vergauwen noted there are eight empty classrooms at the Chain while there is overcrowding at WLC.
The board referred the request to its Instructional Committee for further review.
District Administrator Dave Poeschl said the committee will look at the issue in-depth and make a recommendation to the board.
In 2011, the school board and administration began discussing the possibility of closing the Chain School and moving all elementary students into Waupaca Learning Center in order to cut costs due to declining enrollment.
The Waupaca School District’s enrollment counts in September 2007 and 2008 showed 167 and 166 kindergarten students.
That count dropped to 145 kindergartners in September 2009 and remained in the mid to low 140s for the next three years.
In 2012, the board agreed to shift two classrooms per year from the Chain School to Waupaca Learning Center. The board did not vote to close the Chain, but it agreed to monitor enrollment closely.
The kindergartner count subsequently rose to 165 in 2012 and has since remained near that level.
In 2013, the school board decided to keep the Chain School open for the foreseeable future.