West Allis-West Milwaukee School Board, community members look for middle ground after failed referendum

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- We're hearing from both sides of the West Allis-West Milwaukee (WAWM) school referendum issue after the referendum failed to pass Tuesday.

The referendum not passing means Central High School will remain open, and the combined nearly $150 million new school planned at the Nathan Hale site won't move forward.

WAWM School Board President Noah Leigh says concerns about their two aging schools still need to be addressed.

"We still have the needs at the district we were trying to address with this referendum, and we're just going to have to look at other ways to address those," said Leigh.

He said the aging Central and Nathan Hale schools need over $60 million in capitol improvement projects combined.

He said with enrollment falling, they were looking to instead invest more money in a new project.

But Tuesday night, voters put down the plan. Over 60% of voters voted no.

"[That] should send a clear message to the school district and school board that this project wasn't the right project," said Gary Schultz, a member of a group of individuals opposed to the referendum.

He said they're seeking a project more focused on classroom performance improvement instead of new facilities.

Supporters of the referendum, like John Verbos, said they're disappointed in the results.

One aspect he thought was critical was adding other options for kids not trying to go to college, like the MATC partnership included in the referendum.

"If you're invested in the community, even if you don't have kids or if your kids are out of school, you have to support education," said Verbos.

Schultz said not all of the people against the referendum are against potentially consolidating schools, but whatever the plan is, he said they want it to come with a more reasonable price tag.

"If the [combined] high school were a project that stayed within our means [some would be okay with it]," said Schultz.

People on both sides say they want to find a middle ground.

"I want it to move forward and see if we can find a way to put something together that people are more willing to support," said Verbos.

"I would just really encourage and hope that everyone who is engaged in this process up to this point will continue to be engaged," said Leigh.

School officials said they don't have any plans right now for another referendum, as they need more time to talk with the community about their goals.

The first opportunity they would have to put another issue to voters is in November.

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