schools

Consolidation considerations

Oldham-Ramona and Rutland discussions continue

Posted

On Oct. 29-30, the Rutland and Oldham-Ramona school districts held three community meetings to seek public input into the possibility of merging the two school districts.

Tom Oster was hired to conduct a study on the feasibility of a merger and even scouted out some potential campus sites. His study was presented at the community meetings. Cost for the study was shared between the two districts at a total of $10,000.

Combining the two school districts would drop the operating costs of the two districts from four million a year to three million a year. If a new school campus was built, a bond was estimated to add $600,000 to that budget, still saving the two districts $400,000 a year.

The State of South Dakota has 149 school districts, Oldham-Ramona is ranked 135th, while Rutland is ranked 129th. Combining the two districts would jump the new school district to the 85th slot.

Currently, Rutland School District has 190 students enrolled, 108 students in-district. Oldham-Ramona has 145 students enrolled with 102 of them being in-district.

Location of a new school campus has been an issue. With the two proposed locations submitted by Oster, the distance from the schools is fifteen miles from the Oldham-Ramona campus and twelve miles from the Rutland building.

Comments made during the public meetings by Rutland residents were mostly against the location of the potential campus along Highway 81; some wanted the campus even closer to Rutland, which would mean the Oldham-Ramona students would travel even further to a new campus. Comments made through the surveys taken at the community meetings were similar. Rutland residents were not happy with the campus being located off Highway 81, and others wanted the campus closer to Rutland.

The public surveys asked if the two school districts should combine. The response from Rutland was 45% in favor and Oldham-Ramona at 53% for it. Against, Rutland was 22%, and Oldham-Ramona was 31%. Residents who were unsure were 34% of Rutland respondents and just 15% of Oldham-Ramona residents. (Numbers in the survey may have been rounded.)

When people were asked if they would support a bond vote if the districts consolidated, Rutland voted 56% in favor of the bond, 21% against and 25% were unsure. In Oldham-Ramona only 42% were in favor of the new bond, 31% were against, and 26% were unsure. The number of unsure respondents show that many are still making up their mind.

On Nov. 8, the Oldham-Romana School Board met, and their recommendation was to send the study and report done by Oster to the Department of Education for their evaluation. The Rutland School Board met Nov. 10, and the school board tabled the item, to be addressed at a later school board meeting. According to Rutland Superintendent Brian Brosnahan “the plan was not sent to the Department of Education due to language within the plan. The plan outlined that the proposed location was “to be determined.”

Work between the two school districts will need to address the “to be determined” wordage, before the Rutland School District will submit their plan.

“I am extremely optimistic that our two districts will continue to work with one another to bring a sound, proposed plan for our voters to decide,” said Brosnahan. “I feel strongly that working towards this new district is what’s best for our kids and each district’s long-term success.”

Superintendent for Oldham-Ramona, Mike Fischer, said, “The key for me is to do what is best for the kids and best for the two districts long-term.”

Until more action is taken on the wordage of the proposed school campus site, the two schools will continue to operate like normal, including their sports cooperatives.

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