In order to fund technology modernization efforts, the Wisconsin Rapids Public Schools (WRPS) Board of Education is hoping voters will support two referendums on the April 6 election ballot.

The first referendum question will ask voters to consider approving an operational referendum for $2 million in funding each year for the next five years, beginning with the 2021-22 school year and ending with the 2025-26 school year. The funding would be designated for non-recurring purposes consisting of technology and curriculum updates.

The last referendum, passed in 2006, “was essential to update curriculum and improve classroom technology, as well as complete critical maintenance projects,” WRPS said in a statement.

WRPS said the new ballot measure is essential “to continue meeting the needs of students, the proposed operational funding will allow for ongoing updates to curriculum and expand digital access to both curriculum and academic software, provide professional development for staff as curriculum changes and updates occur, improve internet speed and reliability, provide technology devices for student use, and replace aging audiovisual equipment in classrooms.”

The second question will ask voters to approve a $34 million capital referendum for facility projects that are “too costly to be funded through the district’s annual budget.” Specifically, the funding would cover the costs of constructing secure entrances at all schools; renovating science classrooms, labs, and other areas at Lincoln High School (LHS); and allow for building infrastructure improvements and the affiliated acquisition of furnishings, fixtures, and equipment, among other priorities.

In terms of school safety, WRPS is interested in deploying new equipment and technology to “redesign the main entrances at all schools to better monitor and control visitor access.”

Additionally, WRPS stressed the importance of overhauling outdated classrooms.

“Science classrooms at LHS were constructed in 1979; instruction has changed greatly since that time and the existing science spaces are undersized by today’s educational standards,” WRPS said. “Upgrades will expand spaces for flexible small and large group instruction; provide additional lab storage; create opportunities to conduct more advanced labs; boost electrical systems to better accommodate the use of technology and modern science equipment for enhanced instruction; and provide the proper space and equipment needed to add course offerings for in-demand science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.”

The measure will also provide funding to update the LHS library. Again, the school district cited that the current library was outdated given the evolving role libraries play in student education. WRPS explained that libraries are “used for much more than just quiet, independent study.” Rather, these “flexible learning spaces are now used to conduct research; host student group-project meetings; provide academic assistance in math, reading, and writing; provide technology access; and are well suited to meet staff professional development needs.”

WRPS isn’t alone in seeking funding in the voting booth. In November, San Antonio voters approved two bond measures worth nearly $1.3 billion for education funding for the San Antonio Independent School District. New Mexico voters also signed off on additional education funding this past November. Voters approved the General Obligation (GO) Bond C, which provides for more than $155 million in higher education funding, including $51.4 million for the University of New Mexico.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs