Caledonia voted 2,481 to 2,372 to approve an advisory referendum to start pursuing an independent school district.
The approval will also now allow the Caledonia village board the opportunity to move forward with paying for a feasibility study.
But by no means is a potential divorce from Racine Unified a done deal. As it stands now, Racine Unified would need to give its blessing to Caledonia to separate from the district. The group behind forming the independent school district wants state Legislators to change the law to allow communities to separate from unified school districts if they choose to through a referendum.
However, a change in state law would apply to any school district in the state that wanted to dissolve its relationship with a unified school district. The rule change would also allow school districts to join a unified school district if it was possible to do so and the communities wanted to support such an arrangement.
Village trustee Kevin Wanggaard said it’s now up to the school committee to decide the next steps and form a plan.
“Things will have to be evaluated and it’s now up to them to make their case to the community,” he said. “We wanted the input of the people… and now the board will need to consider that plan once the committee has presented it to us.”
Ed Willing, village trustee and a member of the group supporting Caledonia’s pursuit of an independent school district, said that state Legislators wanted the issue put to a vote to see if there was interest before they changed the state law.
“We saw two villages vote for change from the status quo from RUSD and I’m happy with the results,” Willing said. “Percentage-wise the numbers mirrored percentage that asked to be part of RUSD almost 50 years ago.”
Willing hopes to see state Legislators pursue the law change, but they also hope to pursue the feasibility study almost simultaneously.
Racine Unified School District Board of Education president Dennis Wise said he wasn’t surprised that Caledonia and Sturtevant voted for the advisory referendum.
“But I think once they realize how much the cost of it is… it’s like deciding if you want to buy a shiny new toy,” he said. “It’s sounds great in the beginning until you have to pay for it.”