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Wykoff resident speaks out against Kingsland Board’s proposed closure of middle school


Fri, Dec 20th, 2013
Posted in Wykoff Education

On October 21, the Kingsland School Board voted unanimously to close the middle school location in Wykoff and move to a single site school in Spring Valley. Along with the closure would come a referendum that would need to be approved to expand the current Spring Valley site. This decision was based on a recommendation to the Kingsland School Board by a special 13-facility member committee that discussed options for three and a half hours. The members of the committee were board members, teachers, activities and grounds directors and district administration.

Members of the committee are Doug Plaehn (board chairman), Gwen Howard and Deb Larson (school board members), elementary teacher Tara Holmen, middle school teacher Emily Biske, high school teachers Andrew Brouwer and Jen Orth, transportation director Kevin Klomps, district tech manager Bob Tieffencacher, athletic director Tom Speltz, High School Principal Jim Hecimovich, Middle and Elementary School Principal Chris Priebe, grounds and maintenance director Scott Stockdale, business manager Todd Lechtenberg and Superintendent John McDonald.

The committee was given a total of five options by the architectural firm, TSP, hired by the district to recommend facility use exploration. The first two options included making repairs at the Wykoff location including an option that would not implement a referendum, but instead would implement the use of capital facilities bonds or alternative facilities bonds. At a cost of $116,427 of operating capital funds over 10 years, this would be a tax-neutral choice. Alternative facilities bonds would mean taxes would be impacted. A $100,000 homestead would see $85.74 a year increase.

Another option presented would require a referendum at $6,066,782 with a tax implication of voter approved bonds at $64.60 and alternative facilities bonds at $85.60, totaling $150.34 annually on a $100,000 homestead. While the first option is for the middle school location only, the second would encompass both the Wykoff and Spring Valley sites.

The remaining three options would involve a single site campus in Spring Valley and the closure of the middle school in Wykoff. The first of these three includes educational improvements, the construction of a field house (an indoor sports arena), new locker rooms and a walking track. This plan would come in at $12,820,731 with an impact of $114.64 in taxes on a $100,000 homestead over 20 years. The second of these three options include the above mentioned plus a new auditorium and impact a $100,000 homestead at $151.95 over 20 years, as it would total $16,941679. The third and final option includes all the above listed (including the auditorium) and a new bus garage for $17,264,687; a $154.53 on a $100,000 homestead over 20 years.

On November 18, the Kingsland School Board heard from Wykoff resident Lynn Kidd concerning the proposed closure of the middle school and pending referendum options. I was able to visit with Kidd and ask him about his concerns.

Lynn Kidd: I was on the planning commission for consolidation and the city council in Wykoff at the time we made the decision. We discussed all of our options in 1990 and 1991; it took about a year’s worth of meetings to make a decision. The state came to Wykoff about enrollment and we were told our options were to consolidate or dissolve. Spring Valley came and asked Wykoff to consolidate. At the time we were considering Preston, Chatfield and Spring Valley. Most the kids played ball in Preston so it was an option we looked at closely.

Question: So why was Spring Valley chosen at that time?

Lynn Kidd: Spring Valley promised us the middle school would stay open, they would keep the building as a school. That was it. The only reason why we decided to go with Spring Valley; we wouldn’t have if that promise had not been made.

We would not have agreed to consolidation with Spring Valley, like they wanted, if they had not made that promise. I can say that because I was there, I was on the committee. Wykoff paid for the repairs to that building that needed to be done prior to the consolidation, after that it was going to be up to the whole district to keep it functional, but it was given in good condition; there was no asbestos, nothing. And when the last referendum passed, the engineers said the Wykoff location was the most structurally sound building of the three [high school, elementary school and middle school]. This is the same engineering company they hired again this time.

Question: In your opinion, do you forsee any economic impact on the community of Wykoff if the site is closed?

Lynn Kidd: Absolutely. The amount of real estate value will go down without a school here. Wykoff is building a new waste treatment plant and the middle school usuage was taken into consideration when the plan was developed. Now that plan is in motion and that plant won’t operate as efficiently because it will be at a lower usage level. And it isn’t just within the community impacted; it’s our farmers, business places in the district and all homes too. If a farmer is sitting on 3,000 acres right now, about $24,000 in taxes goes to the school district. Some of the plans the board is looking at could raise that a bunch more. Our small local farmers can’t afford that type of hit when there are more affordable options out there, like keeping this site [in Wykoff] open. And a sports arena? How many kids are in sports to make an investment of millions of dollars by everyone? Does everyone or even the majority have kids playing sports? The cafeteria already isn’t big enough for the grades they have in there [at the Spring Valley site]. Kids start eating lunch at 10:30 in the morning or something like that already. What are they going to do with K-12 at that one site? It’s more than economics, it’s about the kids too. Academics and social aspects are far more important than sports for these kids. I don’t think the board is looking at what is best for the student, they are looking at what is best for the superintendent and the community of Spring Valley only.

Question: Do you feel there is a better way to utilize the space the district has?

Lynn Kidd: Of course there is. There are at least five classrooms not being used at the middle school right now. This goes back to moving the 7th and 8th grade out of there. What was the point in that? Research shows that kids learn better when they are segregated by age, they function better within their own age groups. You want to talk about bullying? Things like that will only get worse when you put all these kids together. They aren’t separated at the Spring Valley location like the board said they would be when the last referendum was passed, everyone knows that. There are a big shop in the middle school that isn’t even being used at this point. There’s also two gyms in the middle school and there is nothing wrong with either one of them. Why spend millions to fulfill the wants of a few when thousands will do to fulfill the needs of everyone?

I reached out to Darrin Strohsal, who was the superintendent when they moved grades out of the middle school when this all happened and I asked him why they were doing it. He told me the teachers and staff didn’t like driving there and not all the rooms had windows in it. That’s a condition of employment and not a reason to disrupt the social and educational balance of the students in our district. Now we have teachers and staff making the recommendation to close the middle school and pass a big money referendum, is it really for some of those same reasons?

Most of those committee members don’t even live in this district and they are deciding our fate? That committee should have had Wykoff and Spring Valley community members on it or at least all district residents. The superintendent won’t be here for the 20 years it takes to pay off a referendum, he will be long gone and we will be footing the bill for things we don’t need to have successful academic students.

Question: You gave some figures to the board, can you share those?

Lynn Kidd: The Wykoff district, before they consolidated, was 140 square miles. If we would have dissolved, Spring Valley would have only gotten about 60 square miles of that taxable land. Everything else would have been split between Chatfield and Preston. As it is now, since we agreed to consolidating with Spring Valley because they agreed to keep our school open and operating, they absorbed the full 140 square miles. There’s 640 acres to a square mile, take that times 140 square and you’re looking at 89,600 acres they acquired. The average money to the district is roughly $8 an acre right now, you take that times 89,600 acres and you’re looking at $716,800 to the district annually. On top of that, the City of Wykoff contributes about $161,000 a year to the district, which brings the total to $877,600 a year for the district because of the consolidation.

Back then, it was a good deal for Spring Valley to invite Wykoff to consolidate and back then it was a good deal for Wykoff to agree since they promised to keep our school here and working. There was a community vote for Wykoff on that issue and the citizens agreed to the consolidation because of that; they didn’t want to lose their location. It was a good deal for everyone all around. This district is now two towns and the rural community. Decisions should be made for all three of those communities and the best interests for their families and expenses.

Question: Do you think the Kingsland School Board will reconsider their options and the closure of Wykoff site in light of some of the information you provided them at their November meeting?

Lynn Kidd: I can’t say if they will or won’t, but the right thing to do would be to reconsider. There was an agreement made between Spring Valley and Wykoff and they are violating that agreement if they go on with this. Besides all of that, our last building referendum isn’t paid for either. And most importantly, it’s just not the best thing for the kids and the parents who have to pay for something that isn’t needed.

I don’t know if they will listen or not, but I am starting a petition to show the board that the majority does not agree with them and anyone who wants to sign it can contact me. They can call me at my shop at 352-7242. I think it’s only right that the district members decide if one of the locations closes. These schools belong to us, not just to a select few on a board or committee. I have spoken to many people in both Spring Valley and Wykoff; not one person I have talked to thinks like the school board. We all think the Wykoff school should be the middle school and be grades 4-8.

Over the course of a week, messages were left for Kingsland Superintendent John McDonald at his office and on his cell phone to give him an opportunity to respond and to share his views on the pending closure of the middle school location in Wykoff as well as the referendum options. No calls have been returned at the time of this article submission, therefore we are unable to share an opposing view at this time. If you have an opinion you would like to share, please visit us at www.fillmorecountyjournal.com and leave a comment. You can also submit a letter to the editor or visit us on Facebook.

Comments:







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5007

6:52:53, Dec 22nd 2013

Lauren H says:
Good job Journal! Would love to see more on this topic because I didn't even know this was happening and I live in the kingsland school district. good reporting thank you!



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