Rhinelander School Board to consider spring referendum
Survey results show community support
By Eileen Persike
RHINELANDER – Nearly three-quarters of respondents to a School District of Rhinelander survey said they would support a referendum to upgrade tech ed facilities at the middle and high schools.
Bill Foster with School Perceptions, an education research firm, presented to the Rhinelander School Board findings from a survey to gauge support for a $26 million referendum. The survey, which closed Oct. 9, was mailed to all residents of the school district and parents and staff also received an email. Foster said as of Oct. 16, the firm had received 1,674 responses, a 15% response rate. Getting 400 or 500 responses, he said, would have statistically provided enough valid data.
“In Rhinelander we had a lot of seniors take our survey,” said Foster. “Forty-two percent of our sample were over the age of 65, which raises the question, is this a problem? And the answer is no. When it comes to voting, the seniors tend to turn out; the younger 18 to 24 year-olds tend not to turn out to vote. So we’re over-weighted with older folks but that’s how it works when you go to the polls there are older folks voting so that’s good.”
Respondents were divided into three groups, all of which said yes to the referendum; staff 92%, parents 82% and non-parents non-staff 70%. Foster called those results “quite phenomenal,” noting there should be more weight placed on the non-parents non-staff group because they represent the majority of the district’s voters.
“Right now we’re predicting that if this referendum were put on the ballot today there would likely be around 73% support,” Foster said. “If you take that margin of error [2.44%] into account, you might be around 71-75% support. There is a margin of error in this work but it’s relatively small. Given the strong support that you’re showing, I’m not too worried at this point.”
The list of upgrades in the proposal at the high school includes creating a dedicated space for the building trades classes, adding auto-small engine-marine shop space, relocating and expanding the wood shop, renovating the metal and welding manufacturing shot, creating a fab lab and robotics area, renovating existing science labs and renovating restrooms built in 1958.
James Williams Middle School proposed plans include adding tech ed labs and classrooms, relocating and updating tech ed classrooms, art, family and consumer ed and choir classrooms; adding special education classrooms, renovating existing offices and improving building security and improve the bus pick-up and drop-off traffic flow.
The Rhinelander School Board will likely decide in November whether to move forward and place the referendum on the spring ballot. Voter approval of the $26 million referendum would result in an estimated property tax mill rate increase of about 29 cents, or $29 for each $100,000 of property value.