by LISA OLLIGES
The controversial closing of an elementary school in Scammon, Kansas is paying off financially for both the school district that closed the facility, and a nearby school district.
The Columbus School District superintendent says more than 40 students left their district after they closed Scammon Elementary, taking state funding with them, but his district has still saved nearly $500,000.
Only about 20 students from Scammon chose to stay in the Columbus School District, attending classes in the community of Columbus.
"We were cut about $1 million from the state - it was something that had to be done to keep our district running - it probably saved us approximately $500,000 to $550,000," says Dr. David Carriger, Superintendent of USD 247 - Columbus.
The 42 students from Scammon who chose to go to the Weir Attendance Center was a windfall of around $280,000 for USD 247, a district that serves Cherokee, McCune and Weir.
"That new money that came did allow us to bring on a new full-time PE teacher at each of our schools instead of having to split an itinerant teacher, so kids are getting more services in technology and phys ed," says Dr. Glenn Fortmayer, the USD 247 Superintendent.
The 4th and 5th grade levels at Weir saw the biggest boom in a district that had been on the decline.
Dr. Fortmayer calls it "a blessing" for the district.
"Our district was going through declining enrollment over the last three years," says Dr. Fortmayer. "Those 42 kids alone off-set one of the years. We were losing 40 kids a year so when we picked up 42 that balanced the previous years loss."
Dr. Fortmayer believes geography was the main reason many families chose his district.
"We're just a few miles from their current home location in Scammon and so it was a closer drive for them to come to us or bussing than it was to go to Columbus," says Dr. Fortmayer. "Some of the parents were dissatisfied that the school was closed, so this was a voting with their feet type issue."
Kids say it helped that they did not make the change alone.
"Because I knew that I would be having friends I knew from Scammon over here, so I pretty much have friends at Weir," says Daniel Best, a 5th grade student.
Fourth grade student Jessica Humble says the transition was scary at first, but says she is adjusting.
"I made a lot of new friends and it's been fun," says Jessica.
Both the Columbus and Cherokee superintendents say more cuts in state aid are expected. That could make it difficult to operate rural schools, which continue to see declining enrollments.