By Dave Fidlin


Whitewater Unified School District officials have launched an informational website and set in motion a series of meetings for the $12.8 million operational referendum that will be on residents’ ballot boxes in November.

The WWUSD School Board at a special meeting Aug. 13 voted to hold the referendum, which would cover a four-year stretch beginning with the 2019-20 school year.

At the board’s regular meeting Aug. 27, officials dug deeper into the referendum, which comes on the heels of the $23.5 million capital referendum voters approved two years ago.

District Administrator Mark Elworthy delineated between the two types of referendums at last week’s meeting.

“We’re finishing a capital referendum,” Elworthy said, pointing out the funds went toward the school facility improvements, many having occurred during the summer hiatus.

“An operational referendum is so we can keep the doors open,” he added.

The upcoming request for additional dollars, if approved, also would follow in the footsteps of a similar question posed to voters four years ago.

In November 2014, district residents approved a four-year operational referendum. The question was asked for the authority to exceed state-mandated caps by $1.2 million annually, between the 2015-16 and 2018-19 school years. The referendum totaled $4.8 million.

The upcoming question carries the same goal but is structured differently.

Voters will be asked to approve exceeding state caps by $2 million in the 2019-20 school year, $2.8 million in 2020-21, $3.6 million in 2021-22 and $4.4 million in 2022-23.

District officials have planned eight informational meetings related to the referendum in different venues throughout the district’s boundaries.

One meeting is planned in each of the municipalities served, in whole or part, by the district, including the City of Whitewater and towns of Cold Spring, Johnstown, Koshkonong, LaGrange, Lima, Richmond and Whitewater.

Information about the meeting venues and dates and other pertinent details linked to the upcoming referendum is available online at


Revised lunch guidelines

In other business, the board approved a change in the district’s unpaid meal guidelines.

In the past, the district had been offering peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as a catchall solution of ensuring students had food to eat during the lunch break, though it was geared primarily toward persons with lunch accounts running a deficit.

Director of Business Services Matthew Sylvester-Knudtson said the district is ending the practice this school year on the heels of an audit of the food service program by officials in the state Department of Public Instruction.

The change implemented at last week’s meeting has increased a family’s negative balance threshold to $75, at which point lunch line access would not be granted.

Sylvester-Knudtson said that the goal is to offer flexibility for families facing emergency hardships.

“We hope that we would have intervened to point where it wouldn’t be at that level,” Sylvester-Knudtson said of the threshold.

The issue does not pertain to students receiving free meals through federal subsidies.


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