Janesville78.2°

Voters to decide on new Beloit Turner High School

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Gina Duwe
March 28, 2013

— Will a new Beloit Turner High School be built?

School district voters will decide April 2 when they vote on a $28 million referendum to build a 600-student high school on district-owned property behind the current school.

District officials cite a number of reasons why now is the time to build, including low interest rates, enrollment numbers, student safety and grade configuration, lowering the population at Townview Elementary and growing programs and offerings.

The tax impact is estimated to be an extra $144 per $100,000 of property valuation annually for 20 years. The district would take out three loans, one each year starting in 2013, with an average interest rate of about 3.5 percent.

With a new high school, the plan calls for configuring the district as follows:

-- Townview Elementary: Early childhood, 4-year-old kindergarten and kindergarten

-- Powers Elementary: Grades 1-2

-- Current Turner Middle School and High School: Grades 3-8

-- New high school: Grades 9-12

Each elementary grade now has four classes—called a four-track system—while there are five classes per grade in the middle school. The high school is growing toward a five-track system.

Space does not allow the elementary grades to expand to a five-track system, but if the new high school is approved, the district would have the capacity to grow to a six-track system, serving 150 students per grade.

The high school now has 444 students.

Open enrollment has been a contentious issue among residents questioning the project. District officials say open enrollment is not the main reason for the project.

District Administrator Dennis McCarthy has said districts with declining enrollments are in a death spiral. The district had strong resident growth until 2009 and has since increased the number of students through open enrollment.

The new high school would allow the district to manage open enrollment while hoping resident growth resumes, officials say.

Turner is one of the few districts in the state with an open enrollment waiting list. More than 200 students are on the list this year. The district has a net gain of about 200 students, with 22 percent of Turner students coming from outside the district this year.



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