EL to choose between school or levyPublished 10:55am Tuesday, September 24, 2013
An upcoming referendum will decide if two elementary schools in Grant County will close and relocate to Barrett.
Residents of the West Central Area School District who vote in the Nov. 5 election will choose between closing the two schools and moving elementary students to the high school campus in Barrett or extending a levy for 10 years.
The school board is in favor of the relocation plan because it would save money going forward and is more of a long-term solution, according to Superintendent Pat Westby.
But Westby knows it will not be an easy sell for Elbow Lake residents.
“We know it’s a very highly, highly emotional issue,” Westby said. “We recognize that and we understand that.”
In 2010, the West Central Area School District passed a levy of $1,370 per pupil that is set to expire in 2015.
Because of changes to the levy system in the past year, the district would be able to ask for more per pupil. Residents will vote on expansion or a 10-year levy of $1,447.78 per pupil.
The relocation plan, which calls for the closures of both West Central Area North and South Elementary schools, would include a bond of more than $12 million for construction of a K-5 addition to West Central Area Secondary School.
Neither the expansion nor the levy proposals will have an impact on taxpayers. Taxes would go up by $0.22 a year by moving elementary classes to the secondary school and rates would not change at all under the levy, which has been in place for three years.
Westby said parents should not fear a negative impact on education with a potential move to a new location.
“The school district believes it makes financial sense to do this, but also educationally for our kids,” Westby said. “It’s not going to negatively impact our kids in any way, shape or form.”
If the relocation option wins the referendum, Westby said there will have to be some staff cuts. However, he hopes the cuts will come at the expense of certain positions and not necessarily staff members themselves. Retirements and resignations could provide opportunities for staff members whose positions are cut.
The relocation would not take place until the fall of 2015, and Westby said it is unknown what would be done with the two school buildings in the event of relocation. He did say the buildings still have some value.
Residents wanting to learn more about the two options can attend a 7 p.m. public meeting Oct. 2 at West Central Area Secondary School.