Abbotsford, Stratford school districts see spike in student enro - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Abbotsford, Stratford school districts see spike in student enrollment

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Some rural central Wisconsin schools have to decide what to do about increasing enrollment.

More students mean greater costs, and state funding might not be able to keep pace.

Districts such as Abbotsford and Stratford are experiencing the growth.

Enrolling more students has its benefits, but it also raises budget concerns.

The Stratford School District has seen steady growth. There's been about a 19% increase in enrollment in the last ten years.

In Abbotsford, there's even more.

"Since we opened up the new building in 2009, we've actually seen a 15% increase in student population," said Reed Welsh, the Abbotsford superintendent.

Abbotsford district leaders attribute the rise to the Hispanic demographic, saying Abbotsford has become a community that many Hispanic families are interested in moving to.

These superintendents take pride in their schools attracting more families.

"It's good for our community. There's more involvement in the community," said Scott Winch, Stratford's superintendent.

Welsh agrees.

"Our staff doesn't look at the challenges or roadblocks. They see it as an opportunity to provide a great education," he said.

They're also mindful of what it takes to properly educate each student.

"We're going to have to address some space issues and probably some staffing issues too," Welsh said.

Winch has the goal of hiring one teacher each of the next 3 or 4 years.

That money has to come from somewhere though. District leaders say the state gives them some money, but that aid has not increased with the amount of increased enrollment.

If these districts can't depend on the state like they're used to, it could become a problem.

"That gap keeps widening and the taxpayer ends up picking up the difference," said Welsh.

These school districts don't face a budget emergency yet, but they say it's time to tackle the issue now, before it becomes a problem.

The superintendents say they're ready to start long-term planning to deal with the additional students and to make sure they can pay for them.
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