In front of a packed house, 10 people chose to speak on behalf of Walton Rural Life Elementary at the board of education meeting Monday night.
The board was set to discuss a possible bond issue that could change the future of Walton Rural Life Center. Four options for the school have been presented — two of which include moving the current school to within Newton and two for leaving the school in Walton.
It is the possible move of the school that has supporters concerned.
“To take a school from a community that desperately wants and needs it to place it for future growth just does not seem right,” said Troy Holdeman, a parent of one student at the school with two children on the way to the school. “…Some believe we need a big, fancy school down south to accommodate growth. I hate to say it, and I want Newton to grow, but it is not. “
The most recent bond issue was 10 years ago, in 2007. That bond added on to and renovated portions of Newton High School and reconfigured Santa Fe and Chisholm Middle Schools.
That bond issue is one that Jeremy Schrag called attention to — not only because of the lack of work done to Walton, but for the election results. About 850 votes carried the bond through the election.
“Since this was announced, I have seen rooms and gymnasiums full of people who care deeply about Walton,” Schrag told the board. “These several hundred motivated people may be able to convince one our two more. In the age of social media that could be 20. … We are your greatest asset, or your greatest obstruction. I’d ask that you give us a chance to be your greatest asset.”
In some ways those who came to support the school left disappointed — the board did not make a decision about the future of the school.
The board did discuss a possible bond issue — first voting to proceed forward with a bond issue on a motion by Barbara Bunting and seconded by Carol Sue Stayrook Hobbs. That motion passed 6-0 with Renee Erickson abstaining — considered a vote against.
“I am asking if there is sufficient support on the board with moving forward with creating the plan for a bond issue,” said Deb Hamm, superintendent of USD 373.
Erickson told the board she was not comfortable moving forward without more detail of what the district will be asking for.
There are a number of decisions that must be made before a bind election — including the future of Walton Rural Life Center and what will happen at the middle school level as a result.
“Voting if we move forward with a bond or not is kind of contingent on knowing what is in it. … It is only right and fair to be able to have the details to give our community,” Erickson said.
The board also discussed creating a timeline. Without a formal motion, the board reached an agreement to consider a May election — administration will investigate bond options and pursue a possible May election. However, that could be delayed.
Treaster said he needs more information before approving a bond issue — not the least of which is the results of a demographer’s study that was approved at the last board of education meeting.. That report is due in March.
“That is really key for me, as far as if we invest in Walton or if we need an elementary school south of town. I am by nature an impatient person, but this is catching me and I think this is going awfully fast,” Treaster said.
The most recent bond issue has about $35 million in principal remaining, scheduled to be paid in fiscal year 2026. Currently the district is at about 20 percent debt to taxable evaluation.
In other business the board:
• Received a Newton Educator’s Association report.
• Approved the attendance calendar for the 2017-18 school year on 7-0 vote.
• Approved, via a 7-0 vote, an application to continue Head Start services. The grant The grant as proposed will include $916,896 in the federal grant award and $229,224 in matching funds/in kind contributions. The application is due today.
• Accepted a donation of more than $10,450 from PWD in the form of building supplies on behalf of the career pathways program at Newton High School.
• Accepted a donation on behalf of Sunset Elementary of $128 from the Sunset PTO to be used for transportation and entrance fees of 1st graders attending the Kaufman Museum for Kansas Day studies.
• Reviewed student fee structure for the 2017-18 school year. The only changes from the current year are adding at technology fee at Newton High School fee due to a one-to-one initiative that will begin in the fall, an increase of $3 to the Chisholm yearbook fee as current fees do not cover the cost, and also a replacement ID charge for Chisholm Middle School.
• Approved, on a 6-1 vote, a revised mission statement for the district. Erickson voted against.
• Approved, on a 6-1 vote, new guiding principals for the district. Erickson voted against.
• Accepted, on a 6-1 vote, a strategic vision for the district. Erickson voted against.
• Approved, on a 6-1 vote, an extension to Superintendent Deb Hamm through June 30, 2019. . Erickson voted against.
• As part of the consent agenda, approved the hiring of Lisa Moore as principal for Newton High School. Moore has served as interim principal at the school this year.