GREENWOOD-LOYAL CONSOLIDATION VOTE NEARS
Friday, October 26th, 2007 -- 8:56 am
Posted by Riley Hebert-News Director
To use a sports analogy, a possible consolidation of the Greenwood and Loyal school districts is in down to the two-minute drill.
The two districts' voters will go to the polls November 6th asked a simple question: should the two schools become one school.
But, the decision will be anything but simple and the result of the referendum—regardless of outcome—is anything but clear.
The two school boards met last night in Greenwood. A good-sized crowd was on hand, but unlike other meetings, the public was not allowed to make comments. They listened as Loyal superintendent Graeme Williams and Greenwood interim superintendent Tom Nykl delivered a nuts and bolts review of the situation.
According to budget projections developed by a third-party, each district is projecting a $250,000 deficit in the 08-09 school year. The numbers get significantly worse from there, with real difficult decision to be made in the next couple years.
Nykl explained that, based on the assumption that consolidation will generate some savings due to the economies of scale, real financial difficulties could be delayed until at least the 2011-2012 school year.
"If you look at the next three years, a consolidated district will probably save the taxpayers of a combined district at least $3-million," Nykyl said.
Nykl and Williams also stressed a combined school district would lead to more elective class offerings.
But Greenwood board president Bill Herr questioned those projections.
He noted the projections didn't include the $800,000 he said had been deemed necessary to remodel the Greenwood H.S. to accommodate middle school and elementary students, plus, the combined district would lose Greenwood's $500,000 revenue cap exemption.
"The recommendations are to keep the two elementary buildings with the same staff the first year. Personnel, we recommend a consolidated district keep all teaching staff the first year."
"If we're going to do all those things, how are we going to overcome a $1.3-million difference?" Herr asked.
Even if both sides can agree to disagree on the numbers, the elephant in the room, according to Nykl are the unique cultures of each community.
"Everyone has to give up one aspect of it, either a middle school or a high school. And all those rituals and traditions that you have always done. That's very, very difficult to handle," Nykl said. "All the numbers we talk about here don't address that personal dilemma."
But in closing the meeting, Loyal board president Paul Gries gave a personal reason he's supporting consolidation.
Before the meeting, his son called from college.
"He is a freshman at La Crosse and he was telling me about some of the troubles he was having in a science class. What he sees in the students next to him is a lot of this stuff is review for them, and he's learning it all new."
"If there's anyway we can avoid that, instead of cutting classes…that's where this whole thing meets the road," Gries said.
In other news from the meeting, the boards unanimously agreed how the terms of a new school board would be staggered, but Greenwood's board stepped back from their support of a combined district map that was approved at the last joint meeting.
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