Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Exeter-Milligan and Friend School Boards hold joint meeting


Exeter-Milligan and Friend school board members joined together in the Exeter gym for the fourth in a series of joint public meetings presenting information on a possible consolidation of the two districts.

All the information presented during the meeting is available for public viewing on the websites for both districts.

After the meetings were officially opened by respective board presidents, EM Superintendent Paul Sheffield and FPS Superintendent Derek Anderson shared a power point presentation starting with the history of consolidation discussion and co-oping between the two districts.

They also presented the fact that both districts have seen a drastic decline in enrollment.  It was noted that in 2002-2003 EM had an enrollment of 321 and FPS was at 354.  Right now, the two districts together would be at 354.  “We have seen a steady decline; 58% for EM and 40% for Friend,” explained Sheffield.

Currently the proposal plans for the Kindergarten to fifth grade to be educated in the Exeter building and sixth through twelfth grades will be in Friend with the sixth through eighth grade using the Friend elementary area. There would be preschool in both locations.

There was no discussion of any additional construction to either site but Sheffield noted that it was his recommendation to the board that the Exeter high school building be torn down. “If we aren’t going to use the high school let’s tear it down.  Let’s don’t let it become a tag factory or nursing home.”

The EM district is also in the process of transferring ownership of the Milligan school to the village of Milligan.  Along with the building the district would transfer a finite amount of funds from the EM building fund to be used to maintain the building.

On the Friend side of things, Anderson talked about their indebtedness, “The constituents of Friend would continue to pay for that.  EM would not pay for that.  A new building fund will be created for the consolidated district.”

The property valuation for the new district would be at $1.2 billion dollars.

The proposal provides that the first school board in the new district would be made up of six members, three from the EM district and three from the Friend district. EM would have two elected with four year terms and one with a two year term while Friend would have two with two year terms and one with a four year term.

After that, there would be no requirement that board members are from a certain district.

As they presented the advantages for combining, Anderson talked of the collaboration of the teachers and the additional academic offers.

There are no plans to remove any teacher positions, only an administrative position, a superintendent would be cut. EM’s Sheffield has made it clear he plans to retire.

The only questions that were answered were those that had been submitted in advance. Notecards were provided to the public if patrons had additional questions to submit.

The meeting was opened for public comment and just three stepped up to the microphone. 

Allison Petersen who along with husband, Robbie, opted their kids into the district from Fillmore Central, expressed their support, “ (we) see a significant benefit for our students if we consolidate. I believe there will be a huge benefit and boost to the arts in our schools. I am also excited to see more classroom and teacher collaboration. Our own children are looking forward to joining with the Friend students in the classroom as they have enjoyed being teammates with them in the sports coop. To be perfectly honest, their biggest concern is school lunch.”

Taylor Kahlandt emphasized the advantages to having a separate middle school and seeing a boost for both academic and arts in the consolidation.  She thanked the board for being pro-active.

Kelly Rischling also thanked the board and addressed the concern of a parent about busing, as she has three children who often choose to ride the bus over riding with mom to Exeter from Milligan.
Both boards will meet for their regular monthly meeting on March 18 and then both will vote on consolidation in their April meeting.  They noted that public comment will be allowed at both meetings.

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