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0832, 09 Feb 16

School Board Votes Against Detachment

This is a bit of interesting policy that took place at the West Bend School Board meeting last night.

Not wishing to set a precedent, members of the West Bend School Board voted Monday night to deny a request by residents in the Strawberry Glen subdivision to detach from the district.

The subdivision is at the far southeast end of the district, north of Highway 60 in the town of Jackson, on the border of Washington and Ozaukee counties. Of the 44 families in the subdivision, 34 signed a petition asking for detachment in hopes of attaching to the Cedarburg School District.

Mike Shaw, who organized the petition, told the board during Monday’s public hearing that “staying in the West Bend School District results in our kids spending approximately 402 hours more on a bus over the course of their childhood.”


Shaw said of the 51 children in the subdivision, 40 of them want to attend the Cedarburg School District. The remaining 11 preferred to remain in the West Bend district.


The district would, however, feel a fiscal effect. It would lose more than $12 million in property taxes if Strawberry Glen was allowed to detach.

This is essentially a math problem. This subdivision is rather affluent and generates a lot of property taxes – more taxes than the cost of educating the kids in the subdivision. If they go to the Cedarburg district, it will cost the district. Even if the 40 kids that they say want to go to Cedarburg do so through open enrollment, it’s still a cash positive arrangement for the West Bend School District.

This does highlight something that I’ve been discussing for years. Many people have been critical of the West Bend School District because it has been losing more kids through open enrollment than it has been taking in. They characterize this as a indicator that the quality of the district has declined to where families are opting out. But the exit interviews and anecdotal information about the families who choose open enrollment to leave the district indicate that the most common reason is that a neighboring district is more convenient for the family.

The West Bend School District is a geographically large district. As such, some families on the edges of the district find it more convenient to go to the schools that are closer to them – even if those schools are in a neighboring district. That’s the case here. Many folks in the Strawberry Glen subdivision find it more convenient and in sync with their lives to send their kids to Cedarburg than West Bend.

Perhaps it is time to consider shrinking the geographic footprint of the West Bend School District. The far flung district made more sense when the population of Washington County was smaller, but as population centers shift, maybe it doesn’t make as much sense as it used to.


0832, 09 February 2016


  1. Anon I. Mus

    In this day and age, small school districts face the challenge of having to consolidate with other districts to remain financially viable. Shrink West Bend School District, and the contingent districts would need to expand to fill in the gap and thus become even more far flung than they are – think of Kewaskum & Slinger. Unless you are proposing creation of more districts. I think school board member Bart Williams has it right – those people located where they are with their eyes wide open. If you want to live closer to your children’s schools, buy a property closer. The market will sort that one out.

  2. Owen

    I wasn’t advocating shrinking the district, Anon. I just thought it was worth thinking about. But you bring up a good point. Some smaller districts do have a hard time generating enough tax revenue. But if we trimmed down the district to 5,000 students instead of 7,000, could we serve those 5,000 better? Of course, those other 2,000 students would be absorbed by other districts, thus making them bigger.

    Specifically for the folks in Strawberry Glen, you and Bart are both right. That’s a newer subdivision and I presume that every homeowner knew what district it was in when the built of bought their homes. But a quick look at the map makes you wonder why it was in the West Bend School District to begin with:,+Cedarburg,+WI+53012/@43.325929,-88.2059704,11z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x8804f090d3e59789:0x9413ba3e38393400

  3. Anon I. Mus

    The school districts used to follow county lines – that territory would have originally been the Washington County School District, which was the system for all the rural one-room type of schools for primary education. The cities and villages had their own school systems. Back in the early days there was no busing and students had to walk to school, so schools were located accordingly, usually sited according to township section lines. My mom went to a one-room country school, then had to board in town for high school. At some point in time, the Washington County School District was dissolved and those areas were tacked onto adjoining districts. West Bend also acquired Village Jackson & Village Barton and Village Newburg schools. Kewaskum acquired Wayne and Fillmore. Slinger acquired Allenton. This was a mass consolidation. based on the geography and demographics of an era long since passed – especially before rural farms were converted to country subdivisions. Some of this happened in either the 40’s or 50’s, last of it was in the early 60’s. Development tended to happen based on proximity to schools – usually at the outer reaches of a school district you would not find this level of density. That is what I meant by the market sorting this out.

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