EPS schedules no future meetings with Clearwater
A future where students from Elgin Public (EPS) would attend classes alongside students from Clearwater appears, for now. to have no future.
Meeting Wednesday night, District #18 Board President Steve Busteed said a subcommittee, exploring the option of joining the two school districts into one, weighed all the pros and cons on the issue. He said they came to a conclusion that there were more cons than pros for moving forward. He said the subcommittee reached that consensus during a meeting last week.
Superintendent Dan Polk summed up the subcommittee’s conclusion, saying they believed School District #18 could not find anything “substantially beneficial to move forward.”
One issue Busteed raised was enrollment numbers and the future. He said District #18 is going to have some low numbers, but the numbers will be better when this year’s seventh grade class becomes sophomores (in three years). He said by combining the two school districts into one, it would potentially increase numbers, but there were no guarantees as, later in the meeting, concerns were raised about some students leaving EPS for PJCC, and some Clearwater students opting to attend school in Ewing or Orchard.
Board member Steve Heithoff explained that State Law 79-499 said the state can shut a school down if the school has 25 kids or less in high school for two consecutive years. Polk said right now District #18 doesn’t foresee a problem, but the numbers could be close.
Attending the meeting from Clearwater was Tom Thiele. He thanked the subcommittee as well as Superintendent Polk for meeting with Clearwater representatives to talk about the issue. “I do think in all smaller towns, we need to learn how to work together, look at what’s coming down the road.” He said Clearwater would be willing to meet again with Elgin and wanted to keep the lines of communication open.
“The lines are always open,” Busteed said.
EPS patrons’ input
Board member Stan Heithoff said he received several phone calls from individuals who were against moving towards consolidation. One concern raised was having the same number of board members from each school district and the control Clearwater board members might have over District #18’s valuation which is considerably higher. Another concern raised, he said, was about losing some teachers and their families if they lost their teaching positions as a result of the merger.
In the meantime, Clearwater is continuing to discuss future options with Orchard and Ewing school districts.
As for Elgin, the school district appears ready to continue in its’ present form as well as continuing a sports co-op with Pope John. The sports co-op was not discussed at the meeting.