Nearly a decade after it was begun, Woodland Charter School in the Minocqua-Hazelhurst-Lake Tomahawk School District will close at the end of the 2019-20 school year.
The MHLT School Board made it official at its regular meeting Monday.
District administrator Jim Ellis summarized a little of the history behind Woodland’s establishment and reasoning for its closure.
“We had a planning year in 2008-09, looking at giving students and families another opportunity and it opened,” he said. “It opened in the fall of 2010 with one teacher and 19 students.”
Ellis said Woodland Charter School expanded the following school year to a maximum capacity of 51 students and a teaching staff of three.
“Students still learn the curriculum required by the state of Wisconsin, but with greater flexibility in how those standards are delivered,” states a 2016-17 brochure describing Woodland Charter School on the MHLT website.
Over the past few years, however, there’s been a steadily declining enrollment; 45 students in 2017-18, 42 for the 2018-19 school year and 33 for this school year.
“We’ve seen a foundational piece that has been driven by Woodland in being a project based and place based education and just phenomenal for those students,” Ellis said.
At the same time, he said what’s been seen by staff and administration over the past few years is a situation where Woodland Charter School and the more traditional MHLT middle school have become “more and more parallel.”
“Kids who are now enrolled in Woodland want to have art, want to have physical education, want to have the smart lab,” Ellis said. “You know, what’s happened is it’s made it trickier and trickier to keep the foundational piece of Woodland and we saw more and more students moving back to MHLT.”
He said there were discussions about closing Woodland Charter School last year, but after meetings with students and staff, he said the school board decided to honor contracting for this year.
“Last month, we met with teachers and the governance council and from that meeting, came the recommendation to close this year,” Ellis said. “With that being said, project based and placed based will be an emphasis in the MHLT social studies curriculum next year. So, I think the end result is going to be a blend of both schools, the best of both worlds and this way, all students will get it.”
He said after Monday’s meeting all three Woodland Charter School teachers would be assigned elsewhere on the MHLT teaching staff.
Brian Jopek may be reached via email at [email protected].