Madison’s Leopold Elementary School’s Overcrowding in the News

Click to view a map displaying Leopold and nearby schools.

Tamira Madsen:

Five days after Madison Metropolitan School District and Madison School Board officials learn if voters approved a referendum to help finance the district budget, they’re expected to vote on options to ease overcrowding at Leopold Elementary.
And those fixes, especially the long-range ones, won’t be cheap.
Overcrowding at the largest elementary school in the district has been a hot-button topic the past several years, and the School Board has put the issue at the top of its priority list. Leopold had 718 students last year (new figures aren’t available yet), making it more than double the size of many district elementary schools and larger even than all but one middle school.
A decision can’t come quickly enough for the Leopold community, as evidenced by the 130 parents, teachers and faculty who attended a meeting Sept. 9 at the school. District officials were there to outline a variety of options (see them at they’re considering for the south Madison school located on Post Road.

Distance from Leopold Elementary to:

8 thoughts on “Madison’s Leopold Elementary School’s Overcrowding in the News”

  1. Wasn’t the referendum in November of 2006 intended to ease crowding at Leopold?
    According to the Web site of referendum supporters in Communities and Schools Together (CAST):
    “Leopold Elementary School is at 108% of capacity and the enrollment is continuing to grow. Capacity stresses in the school have resulted in lunch starting at 10:30 am, windowless classrooms and Strings class in the stairwell. In May, the Board of Education voted to construct an addition and remodel existing space. The addition is primarily a larger cafeteria/multi-use space, the internal remodeling makes classroom space from the former library and cafeteria spaces. This is a different plan than the one that was on the ballot in 2005. Funding for this project is currently coming out of the operating budget. The referendum question is for refinancing the loan for this Leopold addition. If the referendum passes, the project will no longer be funded under the revenue cap, relieving some of the pressure and reducing the amount of money that will have to be cut from the Operating budget in future years.”

  2. Indeed it was, Ed. Remember the big dilemma was to either build a new school nearby or build an addition. The addition was chosen, and the new school ended up being Paul Olson Elementary, waaaay out in Hawks Landing. No one would support a new school in Fitchburg. I’m guessing some crow is being eaten by many now. If I understand what’s happening at Leopold, they’ve outgrown the addition already, partially because of the revamping of the Ridgeway Apts and partially because of the demographics of their attendance area. Either way, this just goes to show that suburban sprawl isn’t cheap!

  3. Dave and Ed, I have a slightly different perspective. I was a citizen member of the Long Range Planning Committee during the year when the Leopold referendum was under consideration.
    As I recall, those of us who opposed the plan were concerned about creating what proponents were calling a second school on the same site. The combined enrollment would have been over 1,000 (I have a dim memory of 1,100). Whether called two schools or one school, we were still looking at a huge elementary school when national best practices point toward smaller not larger schools for young learners.
    The size plus the clear trend toward low income families sent up red flags for several of us (Ruth, who chaired LRP did not support the big school plan because of the size issue). For us, the opposition came from concerns over safety, learning environment for our youngest students (if you’ve worried about your child joining 15 – 20 students for kindergarten, consider that kindergarten being in a school of 1000 kids), etc.
    The issue was not about building a second school in Fitchburg. I cannot speak for others, but I would have strongly supported the plan if the school were sited on a separate (e.g. not adjacent) property.

  4. Lucy, your memory is better than mine. I do recall the “dual” elementaries being a huge issue from an operational perspective with the massive individual grades that would create.That part of the MMSD certainly has the numbers for two schools at this point in time. When ya’ll were doing the LRP process, were the projections (both size and demographics) you were given comparable to what that area is seeing presently? I always find it interesting how the district is so hit or miss regarding projections. Personally, I’ve never trusted them (the projections, not the folks creating them).

  5. my son attended leopold for 5 years…we left last year.his time was done..leopolds ran like a prison not a school.i have older children in their 20s i never went threw anything ever like we did at really bites there!poorly ran and supervised!!!we now live hours away out of son attends a wonderful school.only 220 students vrs 700+..were both so happy and greatful were outta there!yee ha.good luck with that mess,youll need it!madison school leopold sucks big time.

  6. You can find the materials and minutes at:
    It has been a while, but as I recall:
    If you ever sat through a long range planning meeting, particularly under the ancien regime, you will know what I mean when I say that there was a lot of smoke and mirrors going on. We had a number of mind numbing discussions about enrollment projections (and their accuracy with divided thoughts on the reliability issue).
    There was a lot of focus on the time line for a referendum, and the building plan and schematics for a second school on the Leopold site, but not a lot of discussion about the final capacity. I remember asking Superintendent Rainwater about the final capacity, and the answer was something along the lines that the second school would be ‘big enough.’ I believe that it is fair to say that the 1,000+ student plan was revealed – or at least not terribly visible – until after we had voted to go to referendum for a second school.
    The focus was on pleas for relief from (very real) overcrowding and the need to act. The rest of the details were sort of glossed over (in my mind). For example, as I recall – and this is without my notes – the two ‘schools’ would share a cafeteria and a gym, which raised questions about transition flow, etc., whether there were 800 or 1,000+ students on site.
    The projections are an issue, and for many reasons. There are a number of demographers and geographers available a few blocks from the Doyle building but MMSD tends to not use them (although a large number of WI school districts and state agencies use both the population labs and the geographers. Indeed the State Cartographer and his staff are part of the geography complex…should we ever care to use their expertise…).
    In other words, I think we could do better if we used the expertise available.

  7. Lucy,
    I do remember some discussion of building a school in Fitchburg…..however the problem was that it would leave Leopold as a very high low income and the new school as a very “rich” school and the only way to balance that is to bus the poor kids to the new school away from their ability to walk to school. It would have cost us to build a new school and then bus kids as well. I wonder about a shift of a neighborhood to Chavez, as has been done, and then a shift from Chavez to the new school as an option. Not great but would balance the income disparity.

  8. I have had the same or very similar thoughts, Mary. I believe that we need to explore every option.
    Right now the superintendent, several key staff, and most of the board are busy with beginning of the school year and explaining the decision to go to referendum.
    I expect that, in November, we will begin the work on a true long range plan – not just boundaries, but facility needs, curricular objectives, etc. – for the district. I believe that everything must be on the table when we talk about school capacity and if it isn’t, I will be pushing toward that end.

Comments are closed.