The Pros and Cons of Growth

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23 News continues to explore the many classroom challenges taking place in our schools.

In the Winnebago School District, their success is working for and against them. The students’ accomplishments go well beyond an award assembly. You can see the trophies in the halls, and this year alone two teams received national and state recognition. First the Winnebago boys basketball team, who finished second for the second straight year in a bracket that started out with 432 teams.

Caleb Snyder, who played on the basketball team, says, “This is great. I got to be a part of something that most high school students can’t say they were able to be a part of during their years."

But it was a rookie team who made the right connection and that led the Winnebago Robotics Team to nationals.

Alec Hill talked about the Robotics Team’s success in Atlanta.

Hill states, "We're hoping it will attract more people. We've heard a lot of new faces saying they'd like to join it next year, and we're hoping to boast numbers."

Only 536 students walk the high school halls. These students say a smaller school allows for better opportunities.

"You can do a lot of things you don't have to be limited to one extra curricular. You can diversify and do extra things. The competition is at a level where it's still manageable."

But in three years from now things are going to be unbearable for this district on the front end of growth. The district passed a referendum a year ago and promised to hold off on asking more money for about five years. Just recently the village approved impact fees, but that revenue is still not enough.

Superintendent Dr. Dennis Harezlak talked with 23 News and stated, "We'd like to have growth in businesses; there's been discussion of that. The recent retail and commercial development in Winnebago Corners will help us out."

Just this week crews started work on a 14,000 square foot strip mall at Winnebago Corners. The mall will contain a bank, two restaurants, a coffee shop and a hair salon so far. The sales dollars would be split between the village and the school district. That is money that could also help build a new school.

Harezlak says, "The next two to three years we will be alright, but we need to plan now, so we have land for a new school, but haven't begun planning."

So what is it that draws people to the community? Sports? Athletics? Knowing exactly what school kids will attend?

Winnebago High School Principal Marianne Kneiss-Smith says, "I don't know if we're getting large influx due to that or any other area. I hope that when people move here for whatever reason, they move here because we have a good district."

It’s a district that worries how to keep pace with students’ needs.

In the Winnebago school district, just over $7,000 is spent on each student. The state average is $8,500. The graduation rate in 2004 was 88 percent. The state average is 86.5 percent, but from two years ago the graduation rate has increased by about eight percent.