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April 1, 2020

3/20/2020 10:18:00 AM
A need to keep Ridgeway school

Dear Editor,
I live in the city of Dodgeville and send my child to Ridgeway Elementary School because I know it to be an amazing school that gives my child the individualized programming, attention, sense of community and well being that he deserves. Currently, the Dodgeville School District is facing a projected drop in its overall enrollment in the coming years. This overall drop in enrollment will result in a significant drop in state funding, leaving the District as a whole in a vulnerable spot. At the same time, the Ridgeway school building itself has some maintenance and repair issues that need to be done sooner rather than later for it to continue to function. At this time, the only discussion from the District to solve these two issues has been to unnecessarily link them together and talk about shutting down the Ridgeway school rather than to go forward with the repairs. The reason that has been given for this is to save money.
However, there are a few problems with this thinking. First of all, the building itself will still need to be repaired even if the school itself is shut down. One of the issues is an asbestos problem that will need to be taken care of at the cost of roughly $38,000. The air quality of the school is currently safe according to recent tests. Asbestos is something that we have dealt with in older buildings for generations and there are ways to have it safely dealt with at a reasonable cost . If we were to close the school the cost to deal with the asbestos would still be paid out as it would need to be dealt with anyway, but there would be no pay off for doing so. Secondly, Ridgeway school extends the furthest east of all of the schools in the district and has the capacity to sweep in many kids at early ages from surrounding areas and boost enrollment. In recent years, as Ridgeway has seen cuts to its special education, for example, many parents in the area have opted to send their children to the Barneveld school district via open enrollment thus further dropping Dodgeville's state funding. The children on the Barneveld/Ridgeway line are children that we could have been sweeping up and adding to our own enrollment numbers this entire time. Thirdly, in an anonymous poll that was conducted by RES Home and School Group 19 out of 20 parents said that if Ridgeway were to shut down that they would open enroll their students in a different district. If that were to happen then Dodgeville would be losing even more students than it has already projected losing, further exacerbating its funding issues and leaving a sense of division and disappointment resonating throughout the district. Fourthly, Ridgeway itself is poised to grow as it has a growing subdivision currently in place and is positioned near such key businesses such as Epic in Verona, Vortex in Barneveld and Duluth Trading Company in Mount Horeb. For these reasons, Ridgeway Elementary School is a powerful wild card that the Dodgeville School District has had hidden up its sleeve for quite some time without knowing how to play it. If a plan of action and the proper amount of promotion were put into place I feel that Ridgeway could draw the enrollment that the Dodgeville School District as a whole needs to stay afloat.
In a 2015 candidate profile, school board member, Michael Knoedler, is quoted by The Dodgeville Chronicle as saying:
"The financial sustenance for every school district is predicated on student enrollment. Our district has maintained stable enrollment relative to other districts in our part of the state. However, over the past few years there has been a decline. One solution to attracting more families with school-age children is to make sure we have the best schools in the area. Maintaining a stable school situation in Ridgeway is part of that equation."
I couldn't agree more. As an elementary school, Ridgeway has the ability to attract students at the beginning of their schooling days, making it more likely that they would stay with the district for all of their school years, thus boosting enrollment and funding. Let's focus on making our schools the strongest in the area so that people want to bring their kids here. A little creative problem solving isn't impossible. This is a time to unite. Not divide. It's a great day to be a Dodger AND a Cardinal!
Jeanie Bettner Kamholtz
Dodgeville, WI

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