On March 20, 2023, the Public Records Board (PRB) approved the General Records Schedule for Wisconsin Public School District and Related Records (GRS), replacing the Wisconsin Records Retention Schedule for School Districts (WRRSSD).  The GRS became effective on March 20, 2023, making the WRRSSD outdated, despite its May 2023 expiration.

The GRS and the WRRSSD are starkly different for one primary reason: the WRRSSD gave school districts the option to adopt one (1) retention schedule for all records that were likely to be maintained by school districts, regardless of whether those records were unique to school districts; and the GRS only includes record retention periods for records that are unique to school districts.  As a result, school districts will need to adopt up to eleven (11) records retention schedules, including the GRS, if those districts wish to dispose of their public records prior to the seven (7) year statutory retention period set forth in Wis. Stat. § 19.21(6). 

To adopt the GRS or any of the other records retention schedules, school districts must:

(1) obtain school board approval for each retention schedule their boards wish to adopt at properly posted board meetings;

(2) complete the Notification of Adoption forms for each retention schedule the boards wish to adopt;

(3) send those forms to the Wisconsin Historical Society (WHS) for formal authorization from the PRB and WHS; and

(4) revise their board policies to reflect the retention schedule(s) that their boards have approved and the PRB and WHS have authorized.

For school districts that have already completed the four-step process with the WRRSSD, there will be no need to do so for the GRS.  School districts that did not complete the four-step process with the WRRSSD will need to use the four-step process to adopt the GRS. 

Additionally, all school districts, irrespective of whether they completed the four-step process for the WRRSSD, will need to do so for any or all of the other ten (10) records retention schedules they wish to use.  Those ten schedules include: Administrative Records, Budget Records, Facilities Management Records, Fiscal and Accounting Records, Human Resources Records, Information Technology Records, Payroll and Benefits Records, Purchasing and Procurement Records, Risk Management Records, and Municipal Records

The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) has compiled the Notification of Adoption forms for all eleven (11) records retention schedules in one Packet.  At this time, there is no indication from the PRB or the DPI that adopting all eleven (11) records retention schedules would create conflicts between the record retention periods identified in those schedules or that school districts should adopt only part of those schedules.  As a result, it is advisable for school districts to adopt all eleven (11) records retention schedules.

The DPI has prepared the “Wisconsin Public School District: General Records Schedule – Crosswalk” (“Crosswalk”) to aid school districts in understanding the changes from the WRRSSD to the GRS and other records retention schedules.[1]  More specifically, the “Crosswalk” provides the likely location in the GRS or another records retention schedule for each superseded record from the WRRSSD and the applicable retention period.

For example, Citizens Advisory Committee Meeting Minutes, which were once located in 1.1.3 of the WRRSSD, are now likely to be found in the Administrative Records schedule under ADMIN402 and ADMIN403, which have retention periods of “EVT[2] + 5 years and destroy” and “EVT + 5 years and transfer to [WHS],” respectively.

Because the DPI is still in the process of revising the “Crosswalk,” school districts should refrain from using a hard copy of the “Crosswalk” when reviewing the changes.  Instead, school districts should access the most current version of the “Crosswalk” by clicking on the hyperlink above or by accessing the “Crosswalk” through the DPI’s “Records Management for School Districts, Public Libraries, and Public Library Systems” webpage.  

After a school district adopts the GRS and any other records retention schedule(s), the district should review the “Crosswalk” and make note of the records that are likely to apply to the work of their district and the applicable retention periods.  That work will aid the school district in establishing an efficient and effective process for complying with records retention requirements in the future.

School districts should rest assured that while there are legal requirements for school districts when disposing of records, the penalties applicable for violations of the Public Records Law are not applicable to records retention violations.  Thus, if school boards are not able to adopt the GRS or other records retention schedules immediately, dispose of records prior to completing the four-step process listed above, or dispose of records inconsistently with the applicable records retention schedule, they are unlikely to face any penalty.  Nonetheless, it is still advisable for school districts to adopt the GRS and the other records retention schedules to reduce the amount of time that the school district is legally obligated to retain public records.  It is also advisable for the school district to consult with legal counsel when questions arise concerning the adoption and application of the records retention schedules.

[1] The DPI cautions school districts that they are to use the “Crosswalk” for informational purposes only.  The DPI advises that the PRB ultimately has authority over the adoption or interpretations of any records retention schedules.  Still, while the PRB has included a similar resource to the “Crosswalk” in the GRS (i.e., the “Revision History”), the DPI has added information to the “Crosswalk” that cannot be found in the “Revision History.” 
[2] “EVT” is the abbreviation for “Event,” and the “Event” for each record is defined in the applicable retention schedule as well as in the “Crosswalk.”

For questions regarding this article, please contact the author,

or your Renning, Lewis & Lacy attorney.

Laura E. Pedersen

Laura E. Pedersen

lpedersen@law-rll.com | (844) 626-0909

Our legal updates provide general information only and are not intended to provide legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship.