FAQs

Enrollment & Projected Growth

What is the capacity of the High School in comparison to the current enrollment and the projected enrollment growth?

The Target Capacity of the Sun Prairie High School is 1,658 students, with a Maximum Capacity of 2,073 students.

In the 2017-18 school year, Sun Prairie High School enrolled 1,794 students. By 2022-23, high school enrollment projections indicate between 1,954 students to 2,084 students.

What is our current student enrollment and how much has it grown in the last five years?

The enrollment for the 2018-19 school year is 8,534 students as of the 3rd Friday in September count date. This is an increase of 934 students from five years ago (2013-14).

For how many years are enrollment projections typically reliable?

With any enrollment projections, the further out the projections go, the less reliable the projections can be. However in 2008,  the University of Wisconsin Applied Population Lab (APL) projected about 8,739 students for the 2018-19 school year, and the actual number is 8,534. This is about 98% accuracy.

What are the latest enrollment projections and where did they come from?

The University of Wisconsin Applied Population Lab (APL) provides enrollment projections for the district on an annual basis, with the most recent update completed in November 2018. In addition, the district contracted with MDRoffers Consulting to provide additional enrollment projections. Mark Roffers from MDRoffers Consulting presented his August 2018 Sun Prairie Area School District Community Growth and Projections Report to the district and interested community members on October 3, 2018.

Between September 2018 and 2030, MDRoffers Consulting projects an increase of 2,098 K-12 students in the District.  Specifically in regards to secondary school space needs, 6th-12th grades enrollment is projected to grow by over 1,230 students by 2030.  The current high school is already over target capacity and is anticipated to be over maximum capacity between 2025 and 2030.

What is the open enrollment program?

The State of Wisconsin allows students to attend a school district outside of where they live or have residence. This is called open enrollment. For every student who open enrolls in, the district receives about $7,400 for regular education students and about $12,400 for special education students. For every district student that open enrolls out, the state takes away the same amounts. There is a large financial component to open enrollment. For the current year, it is projected that the district will have a net positive impact of $456,000 from open enrollment. The district is careful to place open enrollment students in schools/grades - and in the case of special education, programs where space is available. The district currently significantly limits the number of open enrolled students at the high school because of space availability.

HOW IS THE SCHOOL CAPACITY OF THE HIGH SCHOOL DETERMINED?

The capacity of a school is based on how individual rooms in a facility are being used, and takes the recommended number of students per instructional space multiplied by a utilization factor. Over time, the capacity of a school typically changes due to state mandated programs. These programs have typically decreased school capacities from when they were first constructed. In the Sun Prairie Area School District, the School Board has established a recommended number of students per instructor per grade, which is a different number for most grades. Middle schools or high schools are calculated differently than an elementary school because classrooms are dedicated to a specific group of students at the elementary level.  

The method of calculating capacity is calculated two ways;

  1. Target Class Size Capacity is the optimal enrollment level where the building is functioning most effectively as an educational facility.

  2. Maximum Class Size Capacity is the maximum enrollment level that the building can effectively manage.

See the 2013 Building/Program Capacities - Educational Space Analysis for more information.  This analysis was created to evaluate current and future space needs including target and maximum capacities.

Why does the District participate in Open Enrollment? Can you choose not to?

Open enrollment is a state-mandated program. The district can limit the number of students open enrolling "in" based on lack of space, but the district must participate in the program. The net financial impact is a $456,000 gain.

WHAT ARE CURRENT OPEN ENROLLMENT NUMBERS FOR THE 2018-19 SCHOOL YEAR?

For the 2018-19 school year, there are 262 students open enrolling into the district, and 193 students open enrolling out. Open enrolled "in" students account for approximately 3.0% of the total enrollment. The net financial impact is a $456,000 gain.

HOW DOES OPEN ENROLLMENT IMPACT OUR SPACE?

The district can and does limit the number of open enrolling students that come into the district based on space availability and in the case of special education, our ability to meet their programmatic needs. Only schools/programs that have space accept students. For example, even though a parent might request Horizon Elementary School for open enrolling a student into kindergarten, the district would not place a student at Horizon if the kindergarten classes are full. The district places open enrolled students in grades/schools/programs that have room.

HOW MANY STUDENTS FROM FAMILIES LIVING OUTSIDE THE SUN PRAIRIE AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT AND NOT PAYING TAXES HERE IN SUN PRAIRIE ATTEND SCHOOLS IN THE DISTRICT?

For the 2018-19 school, there are 262 students open enrolling into the district, and 193 students open enrolling out. Open enrolled "in" students account for approximately 3.0% of the total enrollment. Open enrollment is not driving the enrollment growth in the district. For every student who open enrolls in, the district receives about $7,400 for regular education students and about $12,400 for special education students. For every district student that open enrolls out, the state takes away the same amounts. The 2018-19 the net financial impact is a positive $456,000. The state gives and takes aid away from a district to cover the cost of open enrolled students both in and out of the district.

WHAT CAN WE DO TO STOP ALL OF THE BUILDING AND EXPANDING IN THE SUN PRAIRIE AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT?

The Sun Prairie community is a desirable place to live. The schools are excellent, the community is progressive. Today more than ever, families explore their options before deciding where to live. A desirable community with good schools is a great way to protect a property owner's investment.

WHY IS A PORTION OF MADISON INCLUDED IN OUR SCHOOL DISTRICT? IF THEY ARE A SIGNIFICANT SOURCE OF GROWTH, WHY CAN'T WE JUST RE-DRAW THE DISTRICT BOUNDARIES AND GIVE THAT AREA BACK TO THE MADISON METROPOLITAN SCHOOL DISTRICT?

School district boundaries do not coincide with with city, village, or township boundaries. Some municipalities generate more equalized value towards the tax base than they have students enrolled. For example, a portion of the City of Madison property within the Sun Prairie district boundaries contributes 16% of the total district tax base. However, less than 1% of students who attend district schools live in the City of Madison.

LONG RANGE PLANNING AND DETAILS

WHAT IS LONG-RANGE MASTER PLANNING?

Long-range facilities master planning is a process used to make prudent decisions regarding current and future facilities and sites. Planning is a constant process for growing school districts like Sun Prairie. The planning aligns with the district's overall Vision, Mission, and Strategic Plan. Master planning is supported by due diligence regarding current facility conditions, understanding objectives and drivers, engagement of diverse stakeholder groups to understand values and priorities, and creative facilities solutions. Each potential component identified within a Master Plan may not become an immediate reality; the goal is to establish a clear vision for facilities as the foundation for fiscally responsible decision-making today and in the future.

Has a site been decided on for the potential second high school?

The district owns approximately 100 acres off of Hwy 19, between Walgreens West and Gus's Diner. This land was purchased in 2005 for a second high school. The district has explored other land purchase options, but no other options have come up at this time that would be suitable for a second high school. The site is favorable considering it has five distinct access points.

What has the Sun Prairie Area School District done to ensure they are taking the community's input into consideration when developing the plans to address the secondary school space issue?

Staff, students, parents and community members were invited to participate on the Secondary School Space Planning Committee (SSSPC). There was also community engagement sessions and focus groups held throughout the committee's process. A community survey was sent out to all staff and residents of the Sun Prairie Area School District asking for their input on the secondary school space plans. The public was invited to attend all SSSPC meetings, as well as the presentation of the Community Survey results and the Enrollment and Growth Projections report on October 3, 2018. The culmination of the SSSPC's work was the presentation of the committee's advisory recommendations at the November 12, 2018 Board meeting.

What are the steps in the process (planning, referendum, construction, etc.)?

There will be 2 referendum questions on the April 2, 2019 ballot. If the referendums pass, there will be a number of subcommittees formed. The planning phase will begin immediately to develop plans and complete this work. A high level timeline as well as the committees that will be formed can be found here.

Will the new high school have a pool, PERFORMING ARTS CENTER, competition fields, etc.?

The new high school would have similar building features and programming as the current high school. These amenities would include a gym/fieldhouse, a performing arts center, a swimming pool, and outdoor fields. Building equity has been stated as an important community priority.

IS THERE A LAYOUT OF WHAT THE CHANGES (IF ANY) WILL BE MADE TO THE CURRENT HIGH SCHOOL, PRAIRIE VIEW AND PATRICK MARSH MIDDLE SCHOOLS, CARDINAL HEIGHTS UPPER MIDDLE SCHOOL, PRAIRIE PHOENIX ACADEMY, AND ASHLEY FIELD?

A small budget has been established for the current high school to create collaborative learning spaces that better support small group instruction and hands-on learning. Cardinal Heights Upper Middle School (CHUMS) would be renovated to serve as a third middle school to house the District's growing 6th-8th grade enrollment. In addition, part of CHUMS would be sectioned off to create a separate and dedicated space for Prairie Phoenix Academy (the current PPA building would be removed). CHUMS would also include a space for professional development/staff training. Patrick Marsh and Prairie View Middle Schools would also receive minimal investments for the learning environment. Ashley Field would be rebuilt for use by both high schools for competition and co-curricular events (athletics, marching band practices and performances and other community events). Both the current and second high school will have practice fields that can support events. Additional parking would be added at Ashley Field as well.

WHY NOT REBUILD ASHLEY FIELD AND BUILD A COMPETITION FIELD AT THE SECOND HIGH SCHOOL? WHAT WOULD THIS COST BE?

Two competition fields were not supported in the community survey. The Secondary School Space Planning Committee and the Board worked hard to put forth to voters a solution that was supported by citizens in the community survey. The second competitive stadium venue would have added another $17 million to the referendum.

WHY WAS ASHLEY FIELD CHOSEN AS THE OPTION FOR THE REFERENDUM VERSUS A FIELD AT BOTH HIGH SCHOOLS?

This is the option that was supported by citizens on the community survey. This will allow Sun Prairie to continue to feel like one united community and save money by investing in one, competition stadium. Both schools will still have a variety of outdoor co-curricular spaces for games and practices.

WHY NOT EXPAND THE CURRENT HIGH SCHOOL TO ACCOMMODATE THE GROWTH?

The current high school site was explored as an option. Traffic concerns, site concerns, and school size (the number of students in one location), caused this solution to be rejected by the Secondary School Space Planning Committee.

WHY WAS THE DECISION MADE TO INCORPORATE PRAIRIE PHOENIX ACADEMY (PPA) INTO THE UPPER MIDDLE SCHOOL? HOW WILL PPA AND THE UPPER MIDDLE SCHOOL BE SEPARATED AND WHAT AREAS/AMENITIES WILL THEY SHARE, IF ANY?

The Secondary School Space Committee did not want the current Cardinal Heights Upper Middle School (CHUMS) building to accommodate more student capacity (725) than the two existing middle schools. Therefore, space was available at the CHUMS building. The building will house Prairie Phoenix Academy, a third middle school, and professional development space. This will fully utilize the space under this roof for three distinct and separate purposes.

WILL THE SECOND HIGH SCHOOL HAVE THE SAME CURRICULUM AND OFFERINGS AS THE CURRENT HIGH SCHOOL?

The intent is to have two comprehensive high schools. Depending on the student transition plan, there may be some differences during transition. The Current & Second High School (9th-12th) Committee will work out curriculum details to determine any curricular nuances between the two high schools.

WILL THE NEW HIGH SCHOOL LOOK JUST LIKE THE CURRENT HIGH SCHOOL?

No, schools are designed for the site that they occupy; therefore, there will be physical differences. However, the community has been clear that they want two equitable high schools.

I THOUGHT THE EXISTING SET UP (GRADES 6-7, 8-9, 10-12) WAS OUR IDEAL CONFIGURATION. IF WE CHANGE TO A GRADES 6-8 AND 9-12 CONFIGURATION, WHAT IS THE EFFECT ON STUDENTS AND STAFF?

When the grade configuration was changed to 6-7, 8-9 and 10-12 initially, the intent was to revert back to the traditional grade configuration (6-8, 9-12) once a second high school was built. At that time, it was projected a second high school would be needed in 10 years. The focus now is how has schooling changed in the last 10 years, and what access to opportunities are students given? Our data is no better or worse than other schools when comparing the 9-12 campuses.

WHY ARE WE ALREADY BACK AT REFERENDUM? SHOULDN'T WE HAVE PLANNED BETTER WHEN THE FIRST HIGH SCHOOL WAS BUILT TO ACCOMMODATE THE GROWTH?

This referendum is Phase II of the November 2016 referendum. The Board purposely divided solutions to meet the enrollment needs into two distinct phases. Phase I was focused on an elementary solution and was presented to the voters in November 2016. Phase II is focused on a secondary solution and will be presented to the voters in April 2019. In 2006, the community rejected constructing two high schools. In 2007, a referendum was passed to build one high school. The school was purposely sized at its current capacity knowing that in about ten years a second high school would need to be explored.

WHY ARE WE CHANGING THE 6TH-12TH GRADE CONFIGURATIONS?

The School Board adopted a new grade configuration based on the recommendation brought forward by district administration in May 2018. The new grade configuration will be grades 6-8 and grades 9-12. This is the most common grade configuration for schools. The new grade configuration cannot be implemented until space solutions are implemented at the secondary level due to space constraints at the current high school.

IF THE SECOND HIGH SCHOOL IS BUILT ON THE HWY 19 PROPERTY, WHAT IS BEING DONE TO ADDRESS THE TRAFFIC AND SAFETY CONCERNS AT THAT LOCATION?

Conversations are occurring between the District and the City of Sun Prairie around this topic to ensure traffic issues are alleviated as much as possible and that students, staff and the community can access the high school safely. As opposed to the current high school with only two entrances, the second high school will have five access points which will help to disperse traffic much better than the current high school.

IF WE HAVE 2 HIGH SCHOOLS, WILL THE BUSING DISTANCE RULES STILL APPLY?

Yes, students more than 1.5 miles away or if there is an unusually hazardous condition will get bused to school.

Financial & Tax Impacts

What are the anticipated costs with the projects set forth in the secondary school space planning and associated referendum?

The capital referendum ($164,000,000) to address the secondary space needs would include:

  • Building a second high school: $140,400,000
  • Reconfiguring Cardinal Heights Upper Middle School (CHUMS) to serve 6th-8th grades and relocate Prairie Phoenix Academy to a totally separate and dedicated space at the current CHUMS building: $16,200,000
  • Building a new multi-purpose stadium at the Ashley Field site for use by both high schools and remove the current Prairie Phoenix Academy building: $17,400,000

The total project cost is $174 million. An accompanying operating referendum, if passed, will allow the district to borrow $10 million dollars less, or $164 million, to accomplish the full project scope. Borrowing $10 million dollars less is projected to save citizens a projected $6 million of interest costs over the 20 year payback period.

What are the potential tax impacts if the referenda are successful?

Question 1: Capital Referendum

  • Annual tax impact of $56 per $100,000 of property value 

Question 2: Operating Referendum

  • Annual tax impact of $72 per $100,000 dollars of property value 

What has our recent property growth been in the Sun Prairie Area School District?

The district's property tax base (total equalized value) grew by 8.9% this year. More property value growth equates to more total property value to spread referendum debt payments and operating expenses across. To project tax impact, the district is using a conservative growth estimate for the next 20 years (most years at 1%). If property growth and total property value increase more than 1% the final tax impact would be less than projected.

WHY IS AN OPERATIONAL REFERENDUM ALSO BEING PROPOSED TO PROVIDE ADDITIONAL FUNDING FOR A NEW SCHOOL?

Wisconsin's school district revenue cap formula does not increase with the opening of a new school. The district's expenses will naturally increase due to the additional space needed to serve a larger student population (primarily due to staffing, equipment, supplies, utilities, and other operational costs). Therefore, the funding amount stays the same unless voters also approve an operating referendum to exceed the revenue cap for operational funding. If the additional funding is not secured, money needed to staff and operate the new school would need to come from existing resources, meaning deep cuts would be needed to balance the budget. The state requires a separate question for operating referendums.

HOW DO THE MUNICIPALITIES WITHIN THE SUN PRAIRIE AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT IMPACT THE DISTRICT?

All 10 municipalities contribute to the tax base for the district. School district boundaries do not coincide with with city, village, or township boundaries. Some municipalities generate more equalized value towards the tax base than they have students enrolled. For example, the portion of the City of Madison property within the Sun Prairie district boundaries contributes 16% of the total district tax base. However, less than 1% of students who attend district schools live in the City of Madison.

WHAT ARE THE IMPACTS OF TIMING ON CONSTRUCTION?

The cost to build increases every year. The average rate of construction inflation is estimated at 3.1% per year. If a building is constructed in 2018, it would cost less than the same building constructed in 2020 or later simply due to construction cost inflation. Additionally, interest rates remain historically low.

WHAT HAPPENS IF THE CAPITAL REFERENDUM PASSES AND THE OPERATIONAL REFERENDUM FAILS?

Operating funds are needed to staff and run the second high school. If the operating referendum is unsuccessful, the district will need to engage citizens for feedback and try to secure sufficient funds on the next referendum cycle in order to avoid deep budget cuts to operate the second high school.

WHAT HAPPENS IF THE OPERATIONAL REFERENDUM PASSES AND THE CAPITAL REFERENDUM FAILS?

The portion of the operating referendum that addresses teacher compensation would be implemented. The remaining purposes would not be needed since the capital referendum did not pass.

HOW WILL THE DISTRICT SUSTAIN THE FUNDS NEEDED FOR THE SALARY INCREASES ONCE THE SECOND HIGH SCHOOL OPENS?

General fund dollars will be prioritized on a yearly basis to sustain the teacher compensation investment.

WHAT WILL BE THE COST FOR OPEN ENROLLED FAMILIES?

Open enrolled families do not pay taxes to the Sun Prairie Area School District, however, the district receives aid from the state (from the sending district) to offset the cost of students who open enroll in. Conversely, the state sends our tax dollars to the neighboring district for Sun Prairie Area students who open enroll out.

BOUNDARIES AND TRANSITION DETAIL

WHAT IS A FEEDER SYSTEM? AND WILL THERE BE A FEEDER SYSTEM ESTABLISHED FOR THE TWO HIGH SCHOOLS?

A feeder system can be explained as the "pathway" grade progression through different school levels (elementary, middle and high school). If the referendum is successful, there will be a number of subcommittees formed. One of the committees will be the Boundary Task Force Committee. That committee will create a secondary schools boundary proposal for board consideration. Currently all elementary schools except Token Springs have a "clean" feeder system - meaning all the students within the school progress to the same middle school.

WILL STUDENTS ATTENDING THE CURRENT HIGH SCHOOL NEED TO MOVE TO THE NEW HIGH SCHOOL EVEN IF THEY ONLY HAVE ONE YEAR TO GRADUATE? HOW WILL STUDENTS BE TRANSITIONED WHEN THE BOUNDARIES ARE REDRAWN?

If the referendum is successful, there will be a number of subcommittees formed. First, boundaries will be established by the Boundary Task Force Committee. There will be a Student Migration Committee that develops a student transitional plan for the newly drawn boundaries.

HOW WILL THE BOUNDARIES FOR THE TWO HIGH SCHOOLS AND THREE MIDDLE SCHOOLS BE ESTABLISHED?

If the referendum is successful, a Boundary Task Force Committee will be formed. The Committee will establish criteria that will be used to evaluate the various options that the committee formulates. The committee will provide a final recommendation to the Board for its consideration and action.

HOW WILL THE DISTRICT HANDLE ASSIGNING TEACHERS TO THE TWO HIGH SCHOOLS AND THREE MIDDLE SCHOOLS? HOW WILL IT BE DECIDED WHICH TEACHERS STAY AND WHICH TEACHERS MOVE?

If the referendum is successful, there will be a number of subcommittees formed. There will be a Staff Assignment Committee. Most other post referendum committees will need to finish their work prior to assigning staff to the secondary schools.

WHAT PREPARATIONS WILL OCCUR SO THAT STUDENTS FEEL SECURE WITH A REQUIRED MOVE FROM THEIR CURRENT SCHOOL?

If the referendum is successful, there will be a number of subcommittees formed. One of the committees will be the the Student Migration Committee. A plan will be created for the secondary school transition. Components will include both physical and social emotional preparation.

WHAT DOES RESEARCH SAY ABOUT "TRANSITIONS"?

Transitions are extremely important because they represent major shifts in the daily contexts in which children and adolescents interact. For some students, the transition is smooth and peaceful, whereas for others, it is stressful. School transitions are related to a variety of behavioral and psychological changes. Research indicates that across transitions, students often experience changes in relationships with peers, parents and teachers. In addition, behavioral problems often become evident after a school transition, which is particularly true when students interact with new peer groups after the transition. Much research has examined changes in academic variables after transitions; many transitions are related to notable changes in students' motivation to learn, academic performance, and attitudes toward school.

CO-CURRICULAR ACTIVITIES

WILL THE HIGH SCHOOLS COMPETE AGAINST EACH OTHER IN CO-CURRICULA?

If the referendum is successful, there will be a number of subcommittees formed. The Student Migration Committee will determine how students will be transitioned into the second high school. In addition, the Activities, Athletics & Recreation Committee will address co-curricula. These committees will delve into the details of how programs will be structured and the transitional plans for their implementation. Overall, parents want more opportunities for their children so it is expected that expansive co-curricular opportunities will exist at each school. If teams exist at each high school they will compete against each other.

WILL BOTH SCHOOLS BE DIVISION 1 IN TERMS OF ATHLETICS?

Divisions are determined by the WIAA for each respective activity and may change by year. The student transition plan must be completed before this question can be answered. If the referendum is successful, there will be a number of subcommittees formed. The Student Migration Committee will determine how students will be transitioned into the second high school. In addition, the Activities, Athletics & Recreation Committee will address co-curricular structure. Having two high schools will inherently meet the goal of more opportunities for students.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN WITH THE MASCOT WHEN THERE ARE TWO HIGH SCHOOLS? WHO WILL BE THE CARDINALS? WHAT WILL THE NAME OF THE SECOND HIGH SCHOOL BE?

If the referendum is approved, there will be a Naming/Logo/Mascot Committee that will address these components.

MISCELLANEOUS

WHAT HAPPENS IF THE REFERENDUM DOESN'T PASS IN APRIL 2019?

District citizens were surveyed in order to put forward referendum questions that reflect the feedback obtained in the community survey. If voters do not support the ballot questions, further feedback will be solicited to see what thinking changed from the original survey. The school space problem will not go away, it will only worsen and costs to address solutions will only increase as time goes by.