Residents of Marquette are rallying around their school as education funding cuts threaten the future of the community’s middle school.
Smoky Valley USD 400 must find about $530,000 in spending cuts to makes it budget solvent for the next school year. The board will likely use some of its contingency fund and the approved 1-percent increase in the local option budget will net about $71,000 for the district, leaving a funding gap of $460,000.
A list of potential cuts and changes has been released, among those cuts is moving the seveth and eighth-grade students at Marquette Elementary School to Lindsborg Middle School. The Marquette school currently has students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
USD 400 Superintendent Glen Suppes said the move would affect 24 students. Those students will eventually travel to Lindsobrg to attend Smoky Valley High School so the transition would simply happen two years earlier.
“Nobody wants to move the junior high if they don’t have to,” Suppes said. “But the move would affect the least amount of students and still provide them a great education.”
The idea of eliminating Marquette’s junior high school has been on the table for the past three years Suppes said. The town’s high school closed in 1985.
If students in the top two grades moved to Lindsborg it would net the district $187,600. No staff would be cut in the process Suppes said. Marquette middle school teachers would fill open staffing positions at Lindsborg Middle School.
In addition to savings in staff, the district would also benefit from the elminiation of some transportation and redundant extra curricular activities.
The move is the largest money saver the board is seriously considering. A proposal to move sixth, seventh and eighth-graders to Lindsborg is also included on the possibilities but Suppes said it is not a serious option at this point. That move would save the district about $266,000.
Marquette residents see closing the junior high school as a step closer to losing the entire school, something many say will significantly impact the entire community.
A plan, coined the “Marquette Miracle” has surfaced with the goal of raising $180,000 - the amount needed to keep the middle school open. The group has already received a pledge of $30,000.
A letter sent to community members urges people to do what they can to be part of the “Marquette Miracle” and “provide these young people the same experiences that helped all of us grow and develop: the opportunity to try everything.”
A fund for the “Marquette Miracle” has been established at Marquette Farmers State Bank. The money will be offered to the board in hopes of covering the amount that would have been saved by closing the junior high.
And a silent and live auction has been scheduled for 7 p.m. this Saturday, April 23, at the Marquette Gymnasium with all proceeds going to the Marquette Miracle fund.
The school board is holding two public input sessions Thursday, April 21, at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. in the Smok Valley High School gymnasium. No action will be taken at that meeting.
The board will announce its decision on any cuts and changes during a special meeting on Wednesday, April 27. There will be no public input taking at that meeting. All letters and comments on potential cuts must be submitted to the school district by noon on Monday, April 25.

Below is the list of cuts and revenue generating items that are being reviewed.
Possible USD 400 District Cuts/Savings for 2011-12:
(Description Estimated Savings Dollar Amounts)--
Field Trip Savings - No Trips- $5,100
Reduce District Office Personnel- $7,936
Eliminate MES At-Risk Para- $8,164
Eliminate SES At-Risk Para #1- $11,046
Cut Vo-Tech Program Tuition- $11,376
SVHS Extra-Curricular Budget Reduction- $11,860
Reduce Building and Grounds Director- $12,024
Reduce Student Contact Days ($3,349/Day @ 4 Days)- $13,396
Eliminate SES At-Risk Para #2- $13,831
Combine MES PE Position w/Principal- $16,151
Eliminate SES At-Risk Para #3- $16,638
Eliminate LMS At-Risk Program- $18,005
Eliminate Kindergarten Paras (SES & MES)- $20,078
Reduce LMS/SVHS Music Positions- $31,325
Eliminate Middle School Art Program- $33,786
Reduce SVHS Social Science Electives- $34,870
Charge for Extra 1/2 Day Kindergarten ($100/$50 per month)- $35,506
Combine FY 2011-12 MES 2nd and 3rd Grades- $39,679
Elementary Position #1- $41,073
Elementary Position #2- $41,073
Elementary Position #3- $41,073
Combine FY 2011-12 MES 4th & 5th Grades- $42,714
Reduce Full-Day Kindergarten to Half-Day- $69,053
Spend Contingency Reserve- $150,000
MES 7th & 8th Grades to LMS- $187,599
MES 6th, 7th & 8th Grades to LMS- $266,091