Land transfers hot topic amongst local boards
Potential land transfers between area school districts have been a hot topic in recent months, due to the Prairie Hills USD No. 113 Board of Education (BOE) voting to close Wetmore Academic Center (WAC) at the end of the 2022-23 school year. While the Prairie Hills USD No. 113 Board met in open session with North Jackson USD No. 335 to discuss the possibility of transferring the land in Wetmore, they have also corresponded with Nemaha Central Schools USD No. 115 about land in Bern and Baileyville.
On April 17, USD No. 115 Board President Owen Zinke sent a letter to USD No. 113 Board President Leslie Scoby requesting a meeting between the two boards “to discuss land in the Bern area that consists of families attending the USD 115 school district, and to discuss the possibility of a land transfer with USD 113.”
The letter continued by asking for a meeting “between the full boards of both districts and [the meeting] be conducted in open session.”
“Our hope is to have friendly conversations and to provide as much transparency as possible for our communities. We suggest a meeting on April 26th, at a time and location of your choice,” Zinke’s letter states.
On April 18, President Scoby responded to Zinke’s letter saying “USD #113 Board of Education is interested in learning more about your request to discuss land in the Bern area. Unfortunately, we have several board members with conflicts that would prevent them from meeting on April 26th.”
Scoby’s letter continued, saying, “In addition to learning more about the intentions of USD #115 regarding the Bern area, USD #113 would be interested in discussing land in the Baileyville area that includes families attending USD #113.”
Then, Scoby explained the situation USD No. 113 is faced with and the potential of being disorganized via a petition, which is currently circulating the district. She also emphasized that if successful, the disorganization of USD No. 113 could present “less than desirable implications for USD #115.”
“A complication that USD #113 faces as we discuss a potential land transfer/trade is the potential for a dissolution petition. A successful vote on a petition for dissolution would negate the time and effort that would be exerted in a land transfer/trade agreement between our boards. A successful petition and subsequent election of dissolution of USD #113 would also present some less than desirable implications for USD #115. If this petition is filed it would likely be on the ballot for the primary election on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2023. If not at this time, it could be on the general election ballot on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023. Our board is inclined to wait until we know the outcome of that petition before moving forward with any finalization of a territory transfer/trade,” Scoby’s letter states.
While the USD No. 113 BOE would like to wait on any land transfers — pending the outcome of the petition — they asked for the USD No. 115 BOE to spell out the specific items USD No. 115 wishes to discuss. Scoby’s letter stated the following:
“In order to move this process forward in the absence of a meeting, USD #113 requests a document that articulates the specific items that USD #115 wishes to discuss, including supporting information. This would allow USD #113 personnel time to research and provide relevant data. It would also allow a forewarning of information that would help to reduce emotions and promote objectivity. USD #113 could then provide a written response that would communicate ideas, perceptions and supporting information to the USD #115 board allowing for the same circumstance. Considering that the Kansas State Board of Education’s established timeline to submit a trade/transfer is February 15, 2024, we have time to take this process step by step.
“Thank you again for reaching out to us. We look forward to learning more about your intentions and working together to improve our school districts.”
As of Monday, May 15, the USD No. 113 board has not received a response from USD No. 115.
As of 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, May 16, H Sub for SB 113 has been submitted to Governor Laura Kelly and awaits her approval and signature. This bill is a K-12 Appropriation Bill, which states:
• A school district that plans to dispose of a school building would be required to notify the legislature and grant legislature right of first refusal.
• Several amendments to BSAPP, enrollment and calculations of aid and weightings (use current year enrollment and/or look-back enrollment).