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USD 247 board approves recommendation to close McCune school - KOAM TV 7

USD 247 board approves recommendation to close McCune school; not final

Updated November 20, 2013: Three board members resign from the Southeast School District USD 247.

Joe Ulery, Tara Underwood, Ladonna Hartman resigned Wednesday night at a special board meeting, held to discuss financial troubles.

Even after the resignations, the board voted 4 to 0 for a resolution to close McCune attendance center.
 
Tonight's vote was not a final vote.
 
The resolution has to be published publicly for 10 days before a final hearing on the vote.

A mother of three children and new resident of McCune, Kansas, Staci Serviss says changes in the school district come as a surprise. 

"I moved here thinking the school is literally right down the block from me, so it's the perfect opportunity for my children and I to walk back and forth to school," said Serviss.  

Her kindergarten daughter is forced to attend Weir Attendance Center, the school is 16.5 miles from the family's home. 

The McCune Attendance Center is home students in grades 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 6th.  All other students are sent to surrounding schools in the district. 

Serviss says, "The fact that all three of my kids have to go to a school 20 minutes away, and I only have one vehicle is hard to balance." 

Superintendent Glenn Fortmayer says, the district as a whole is facing challenges.

"It's a combination of state cuts, the poor economy, and the declining enrollment. Our finances are not hitting a point where we have to make a decision, and do some type of action," says Fortmayer.  

Back in 1979 the district closed the high school in McCune, which may have caused division between the district and parents. 

Fortmayer says, "It was a tough decision back then, about half the population chose to send their kids to Oswego, Chetopa, St. Paul, or Girard. The other half stayed loyal to our district, and sent kids here." 


There were four options for the BOE will choose from. Option 3 was voted on unanimously. 

Option 1 is for three grade level Centers to be created. The schools would be arranged as Weir PK-2, McCune 3-5, Cherokee 6-8, and then Southeast High School. This option will generate about $99,000 in positive cash flow for the District and would keep a school building open in each community. 

Option 2 is for a grade level center at Weir Pk-4, and a grade level center at Cherokee 5-8 with a charter school at McCune. The savings or increased costs under this option are highly variable with the probability leaning to increased district costs versus any savings depending on the charter school model used. A Technology charter school has been discussed by McCune patrons. Variable factors such as the platform, grade level, equipment used, curriculum, staffing, support, contracting services, etc. all would have to be identified before a cost analysis can be conducted. A plan has to be presented to the BOE by December 1 if a charter school is to be applied for to seek a fall 2014 opening if approved by USD 247 and the Kansas BOE.

Option 3 is for a grade level center at Weir Pk-4, and a grade level center at Cherokee 5-8 only. The result of one less attendance center will be a $1.2-1.5 million dollar positive change to the district's cash flow. Option 4is for a k-5 building at Weir and McCune and a 6-8 building at 
Cherokee. The plan is to balance the class sizes and building numbers at Weir and McCune with students west of a boundary line that is yet to be determined attending McCune and the remaining students east of the line attending Weir. Savings under this plan will be around $200,000 plus no loss in students which allows for us to retain students. 

http://www.usd247.com/vimages/shared/vnews/stories/52618fa9ab1d3/USD%20247%20Southeast%20Special%20Meeting%20revised.pdf






Posted October 28, 2013: A school in rural Kansas fights to keep its doors open. McCune Attendance Center has long seen a decline in attendance, but many parents worry the school might soon shut for good.

McCune Attendance Center once offered classes for pre-school through eighth grade. After which students moved on to Southeast High School. But according to District 247, it is losing students every year. And this year only four grades are offered in the building, forcing students to travel over eleven miles to one of the school's other two campuses. 

Marianne Long has two grandchildren going to the same McCune Attendance Center her husband and children attended. And with a drastically declining enrollment rate, she says the community is scared the District may soon try to shut it's doors completely.  In fact, she says even a Facebook group entitled Save McCune School, set up Sunday night, shows how much the community wants to save it.

"It's a shame that we have to put our children on the bus and send them clear across the highway in order to get an education when we have a fine school right here," Long said.
 
According to McCune Attendance Center, last year this school hosted about 70 students in its walls, but this year that dropped down to about 38. Because such few students enrolled the school is now only offering 1st, 2nd, 4th and 6th grade class rooms in these halls.
 
But the Superintendent of USD 247 says no matter what the enrollment, the operations of this building costs the district one million dollars a year. And Dr. Fortmayer says with cuts to school budgets, declining enrollment make it harder and harder to justify the cost.
 
"We've been looking for other means of trying to attract kids into the district to off set the declining enrollment, but we just keep losing those numbers and we can't afford three attendance centers at this time," Dr. Fortmayer said.
 
Fortmayer says the District is considering a few options for the school, ranging from closing completely and sending funds to Weir and Cherokee campuses to changing the focus to a technology based charter school. But even then, Fortmayer says the District would have to attract back upwards of 50 extra students to make the charter school a viable option.
 
"I think they panicked and jumped ship before they knew what was really going to happen and so the decline has just been gradual over the past few years," said Kathy Stewart, who like Long, has a grandchild attending McCune.

Fortmayer confirms that the campus will be funded until the end of the school year, but with next year hanging in the balance, all parties seem to agree that if more kids commit to coming back to these halls, McCune Attendance Center has a better chance of staying open.
 
"We're very accessible for having kindergarten through 8th grade back over here if we can get the numbers back up," Long said.

According to some parents we spoke with -- those in other schools in the district are wary of extra stress on other campuses. But the Superintendent assures us that if anything it would just mean more funding going toward those schools.

To see the "Save McCune Schools" Facebook page, click here.

To see the USD 247 website, click here.

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