Two school boards meet during special meeting
At 5 p.m. Wednesday, March 29, the Prairie Hills USD No. 113 Board of Education (BOE) met for a special board meeting at the Sabetha Middle School.
USD 113 board members present were Kathy Lippert, Phillip Buessing, Stan Keim, Kent Saylor, Leslie Scoby and Jim Scoby. Also present were USD 113 Superintendent Todd Evans, USD 113 Board Clerk Deb Damman, Jackson Heights USD No. 335 board members David Allen, Doug Amon, Melinda Wareham, Konrad Coe, Neal Keeler and David Holiday, USD 335 Superintendent Jim Howard, and USD 335 Board Clerk Sheri Dibbern.
At the beginning of the meeting, the USD 113 board members met with Superintendent Todd Evans and Board Attorney Martin Mishler for an hour-long executive session for the purpose of consultation with an attorney deemed privileged in the attorney-client relationship.
Land Transfer Discussion
After the executive session, the USD 113 board members met with the USD 335 BOE to discuss transferring land in wake of the USD 113 board’s decision to close Wetmore Academic Center at the end of the 2022-23 school year.
Superintendent Evans started off the meeting by reading a statement written by USD 113 board president L. Scoby, whose voice was lost.
Evans let the boards know that any decisions on land transfers will not go into effect until the 2024-25 fiscal year. He also said USD 113 is willing to educate every student in the district and transport Wetmore students to the nearest USD 113 school. Evans said the boards’ decision on a land transfer could “impact multiple generations for the future.”
Evans also asked the USD 335 board members if they are interested in using USD 113’s Wetmore property for educational purposes. The USD 335 BOE said they are interested in that property and would like to see it transferred back to the City of Wetmore at base minimum. Evans wanted to let them know that the USD 113 board would like to move forward with working with the City of Wetmore to transfer the property to the City.
Starting off the discussion on land transfers, Evans showed the Jackson Heights board members a map to determine where the 113 and 335 school districts meet.
He also talked to the USD 335 board about the Kansas Highway 20/56th Road/110th Street boundary line the USD 113 board approved during the regular March BOE meeting. Both boards had a discussion about this boundary line and other historical lines established in the USD 113 district.
USD 335 Superintendent Howard said USD 335’s main concern is finding transportation for families living in the Wetmore area that are interested in attending Jackson Heights. He wanted to determine where these families are living in the district in order to send buses to them, and he noticed some of these families are living far outside 56th Road boundary line.
“Some of the places [the families] are telling us they’re living are further than the line [Evans] mentioned, so we kind of have a scattered plot point of where we think they’re going to be just so we can start putting routes together in our head…” Howard said.
Lippert asked Howard if her understanding is correct that the boundary line could be drawn at any location and buses from outside USD 113 could still come into the district to pick up kids. Howard said she is correct and explained that he would like to know more about where and how far some buses in USD 113 are currently going in order to help him figure out bus routes for those families living outside the boundary line who need transportation.
USD 335 board member Allen then proposed a consideration that 112th Road, north of 56th Road, be a potential boundary line, because there are “historically several families living there.” The USD 335 BOE wanted to start a discussion about this line and give their patrons a voice.
Keim, having researched about USD 113’s history, was curious about 112th Road being a historical line in the district. Allen told Keim this was the information that they were given by Wetmore.
Superintendent Evans commented that the boards are “a long ways apart from each other” and was a bit surprised that Jackson Heights was willing to bus kids from so far away.
USD 335 member Wareham said she had gone through a consolidation and experiencing something like that is emotional.
“[Consolidating] is an emotional issue and I think [we need to] take the time to listen to [our] patrons as it is going to happen, so we can make this sweet and compromised as we can,” Wareham said.
Howard expressed his concerns about sending buses to pick up kids outside the district because Jackson Heights will not get financial weightings for those kids. He said Jackson Heights hopes to meet everyone’s needs.
Lippert asked Howard how long kids would be expected to stay on the buses if Jackson Heights sends buses to the students living outside the 56th Road boundary line. Howard said their goal is an hour or under depending on road conditions.
After further discussion, the USD 335 board expressed that they would like to get more information on the location of some Wetmore families interested in attending Jackson Heights in order to meet in the middle and come to an agreement on a land boundary that will meet the needs of most people.
At the conclusion of the meeting, both boards agreed that it would be best to gather more information and meet again for further discussion before they can make any decisions on land boundaries or transfers.
To watch the meeting on YouTube, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N1WaCtGTSAc.
Second Special Board Meeting
At 5 p.m. Monday, April 3, the Prairie Hills USD No. 113 BOE met for another special board meeting at the USD 113 Board of Education Office in Sabetha.
The board members held an hour-long executive session for the purpose of consultation with an attorney deemed privileged in the attorney-client relationship. Present for the executive session were the board members, Superintendent Evans and Attorney Mishler. After the executive session, the board voted to adjourn the meeting. The vote resulted in a 3-3 tie, so the board members returned to executive session for an additional 10 minutes. There was no action following the executive session. The board then approved the motion, 6-0, to adjourn the meeting.