The tale of rural schools in Wisconsin and across this country. Here is one story from a small town in Wisconsin. Gillett is located northwest of Green Bay in central Oconto County. With dropping enrollment, major decisions have to be faced. Some that may see the end of their very own existence. Story from the Oconto County Times Herald.
Gillett school merger, dissolution discussed
District taps reserves to cover $334K deficit
By Joan Koehne
Stuart Rivard, former district administrator, cautioned that the district will exhaust its savings within five years, if the expenses and revenue remain on the same course.
Boucher advised the School Board to pursue talks with Suring to merge the two districts, but Ransom was not yet convinced it was the best option.
“I think we’re a ways from that,” he said after the meeting. “It depends on the timing; it depends on the needs of each district. I think it’s got to be the right fit for both school districts.”
Miles Winkler, vice president of the School Board, said the proposal was worth studying.
School Board treasurer Cliff Gerbers was hesitant to consolidate with Suring, which faces many of the same challenges as Gillett.
“If it comes to merging a district, the best option is not to pick someone who’s losing enrollment,” he said.
Another choice is to dissolve the district, he added.
“If that happens, I’ve got a sneaking suspicion the entire community isn’t far behind,” he said.
The tax rate is estimated at $9.22 per $1,000 of equalized value, up 2 percent from last year. Taxpayers will pay $922 for the school portion of their tax bill for a property valued at $100,000, which is $20 more than last year.
Student enrollment fell 7 percent from one year ago, from 645 students to 602. With the largest class sizes in the middle and high school, the district anticipates it will be several years before the enrollment stabilizes. Enrollment has fallen 29.5 percent since 2002, when 854 students were enrolled.
Read more about possible school closing and other issues the School district is up against at The Oconto County Times Herald.
If the district has lost 30% of its enrollment since 2002, has the district reduced their budget by 30%, their employees by 30%? The article does not say. Until the economy turns around, difficult decisions will have to be faced and implemented. Blaming state government for less revenue or giving tax payers ultimatums to raise taxes should not be a part of the solution. Was ACT 10 in this school district used to the benefit of the budget or only used to pacify the teachers union?
What can be looked at before consolidations or closings? Does the school system have K-4? Is K-4 necessary? Do they have all day kindergarten? The only reason for these two programs were to boost the teaching staff to expand union membership. What was wrong when there was no K-4 and half day kindergarten? We are talking about four and five year old children. High paid day care centers disguised as K-4 and all day kindergarten should be looked at. Instead of consolidation or closing we feel schools will have to go more towards virtual schooling to save budgets and still give students a good education. Not for K – 8 but for 9 – 12. Students in college have class sizes of 200 to 300 now. School systems could work with other districts to consolidate classes. What if one teacher in Gillett is teaching math to students in Suring, Shawano and Pulaski? One teacher in Suring teaching science to students in Gillett, Shawano and Pulaski. It is time to think outside the box on education in this world of modern technology.
We see more and more districts facing possible consolidations and or closings. It is up to school superintendents and school boards to look at all options to educate their students.
We do give Gillett school leaders credit for even putting consolidation on the table. Gillett may be the first but there are many more school districts that need to face their problems and put all ideas or solutions on the table. The problem in some districts, consolidation will not be discussed for a fear of parent upheaval or other repercussions for facing fiscal reality.
Tough decisions have to be made. For some it will be difficult but some things will have to be done.