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McPhersonSentinel - McPherson, KS
  • School board considers closing Marquette Elementary

  • Marquette Elementary School may be in its final year.
    The Smoky Valley School Board will vote Feb. 10 whether to close the school after students leave in May. Students will have to travel to the district's other elementary school in Lindsborg or go to Little River School District.
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  • Marquette Elementary School may be in its final year.
    The Smoky Valley School Board will vote Feb. 10 whether to close the school after students leave in May. Students will have to travel to the district's other elementary school in Lindsborg or go to Little River School District.
    The decision comes at a recommendation from Glen Suppes, superintendent, in an effort to cut costs and keep the district afloat. However, Marquette residents aren't happy to see their school go.
    The board voted to have a public hearing on the subject during Monday's school board meeting. The hearing will be at 7 p.m. Feb. 10 in the Smoky Valley Middle School auditorium in Lindsborg.
    During the meeting, Suppes will explain why the school should be closed.
    Chris Bauer, who joined the school board this year, said Suppes presented two options to the board — close the Marquette school or make cuts at every school in the district.
    Bauer said closing the school will save about $425,000 and eliminate or change some teaching positions, whereas across-the-board cuts will save $375,000 and result in larger class sizes in all district schools.
    Dawn Clayton, who has three children at the elementary school, said while she sees both sides of the argument, she doesn't want to see theschool go.
    "I love this school. I love how the classes are small," Clayton said. "My kids do a lot better in the smaller classes."
    Andrew Dankenbring has two children at the school with ADD/ADHD and said small class size is important for his children. He also said a daily commute would be hard on his children, even the short trip to Lindsborg.
    "They get really close attention here, and it's really helpful," Dankenbring said. "Moving them to a bigger school, I don't feel like they'll get the attention they need."
    Bauer said part of the problem is state funding for schools has dropped, forcing districts to operate with less money. He said while the current school funding lawsuit may prove favorable for schools, the decision to close the school needs to be made now.
    "It would be extremely unfair to those who may not have a job next year," Bauer said. "They'll need time to figure out what to do, and we can't drop that on them at the last minute."
    Fred Peterson, Marquette's city clerk, said he thinks the possible closure is the result of more than just funding. He said enrollment has dropped because the district pulled several grade levels out of Marquette, and it's caused families to leave.
    "Then you end up with fewer kids in the schools that are left," Peterson said.
    Peterson also said the district should have schools in all the communities it serves, not all in one place.
    Page 2 of 2 - "Why can't Smoky Valley operate a school in Marquette?" Peterson said. "Other districts have low funding and enrollment, but each town has something."
    Suppes said the problem is low enrollment in the entire district, not just in Marquette.
    "Too often we look at it as 'Here's what we have, here's what you have,' but we're one district," Suppes said. "If there was a tiny school in Lindsborg, we would close that one, and the Marquette school would stay if it could handle all the students."
    Clayton said the board should look beyond the financial cost when determining where to make cuts.
    "You have to think about what it'll do to the parents, kids, teachers and community, not just the budget," Clayton said.
    Bauer said several different scenarios were considered, taking into account transportation and other costs, but none of them brought the savings the district needed. He also said the building in Marquette isn't big enough to handle all the elementary school students in the district.
    "We find ourselves in a situation with declining enrollment and funding, and we can't support two elementary schools," Bauer said. "We know it's going to be bad, but there may not be any reasonable alternatives."
    Darryl Talbott, principal at the school, said losing the school will be hard for the community, and seeing his staff go will be hard.
    "It's been great," Talbott said. "We've kept morale up, and we have a good group, so that's the hardest part."
    Bauer said he doesn't want to see the school close, but the district may not have a choice.
    "It's an extremely difficult decision, and it makes me sick to think we'll have to close that building, but we're running out of options," Bauer said.
    Suppes said he thinks Marquette will be able to pull through.
    "I believe Marquette is strong enough to survive this," he said.

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