Madison residents push to join McFarland School District - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Madison residents push to join McFarland School District

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MADISON (WKOW) -- The number of signatures on a petition to detach from the Madison School District is growing among people in a cluster of neighborhoods bordering McFarland.

Liberty Place neighborhood resident Mike Pfohl says his desire to become part of the McFarland School District turns on geography. When his young daughter becomes school age, he wants her to be able to walk to school, or have a short bus trip, instead of having to be driven across the beltline to reach the Madison school in Pfohl's current, Madison school attendance area.

Neighborhood resident Mike Brandt says his wife is a public school teacher, and says they feel the McFarland School District is superior to the Madison district, in addition to being closer to their home. Brandt says the couple plans to have children, and if the petition drive fails to change school district boundaries, they will ultimately move.

Resident John Blasko says he and his wife identify with McFarland, even though they have a Madison address.

"But everybody asks where we live, we tell them McFarland," Blasko tells 27 News. "Because you throw a football across the street, and you're in McFarland."

Pfohl says more than half of the roughly four hundred fifty residents in the participating neighborhoods must sign the petition, and it must be presented to officials of both districts by February, for the detachment proposal to be considered.

McFarland Schools superintendent Scott Brown says it's hoped the petition will be submitted sooner, to allow for more consideration of impacts, within the detachment process timetable. Brown says he and the school board have taken no position on the proposal. He says factors such as building capacity, tax impact and long-range attendance projections would be among the considerations to be studied, and discussed at public hearings, once a petition is submitted.

Madison School District spokesperson Rachel Strauch Nelson echoes Brown's comments on the need to study the impact of the potential of more than four hundred households switching school districts, but says district officials understand why residents are exploring the switch.

"We are sensitive to family questions around proximity and community," Strauch Nelson says.

The proposal to detach would require approval from both school districts.

Wisconsin's open enrollment process allows students in a school district to transfer to another district, if space and resources allow. Brown says while the majority of 70 students who used open enrollment to attend McFarland schools this year came from the Madison school district, only a handful of students went the other way using the process. But Brown says more than 100 applications to enroll in McFarland through the process were denied.

Support for the proposed switch of school districts is not unanimous.

Resident Juli Knight told The McFarland Thistle a switch ".. would only shift the open enrollment burden..." to the families wanting their children to remain in Madison schools, with familiar teachers, friends, and routines. "We've been incredibly satisfied with the Madison School District," she told the newspaper.

For more on this rare step involving where children attend schools, visit wkow.com  and watch 27 News.

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