Find alternatives to district split

Whether the Meade School District splits into two separate districts is still up in the air. 

But the coming together of school officials and rural patrons concerned with the education of their children has been a valuable process.

Both sides are to be commended for their open communication about what such a change would mean.

A committee of rural patrons organized after a meeting with Meade School District Superintendent Jeff Simmons at the Elm Springs Hall in January of 2019. Simmons explained at the meeting that the rural schools were causing a deficit in the general fund of nearly $500,000. 

Mick Trask, the spokesperson for the rural committee, said the group’s primary focus is to find a solution to help solve the general fund deficit and enhance the students’ education across the whole district now and in the future. 

“Working together with the school board and administration is in the best interest of the students and the district as a whole,” Trask said. 

One option considered was closing a rural school. 

Understandably, the rural citizens did not want to see any rural schools close. Parents currently drive many miles to get their student to school, and closing a school would mean not only more driving, but also higher student-teacher ratios at the remaining schools.

The Meade School District chose instead to make cuts eliminating one-third of the rural school teachers with additional cuts coming at schools across the district.

The rural patrons believe that launching a new district will improve educational opportunities because they will be able to service their geographic area better.

They say they also will be able to choose their own curriculum and have a direct focus on education. 

But State Secretary of Education Ben Jones who spoke at a special Meade School Board meeting Tuesday said he recommend finding other options to keep these schools open.

His reasons include that the new district would have low enrollment for the foreseeable future, they would need a high school and they could potentially struggle to find teaching staff.

If the Meade School Board were to vote to allow a plan to be formulated for a district split, then there would be a vote of the residents of the Meade School District to determine the future.

We believe that there are too many uncertainties in the plan so, as the state secretary of education said, find other options other than a district split.

Editorial board,

Black Hills Pioneer

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