A reorganization plan for the Burke and Gregory school districts has been submitted to the communities by the South Dakota Department of Education. The plan will be voted on Sept. 27, 2005, by the citizens of both districts.
“Ideally, a reorganization plan such as this is developed by the districts that are involved,” said Dr. Rick Melmer, secretary of the South Dakota Department of Education. “But because these two districts were not able to come to an agreement, the state was forced, by law, to step in.”
The proposed plan calls for a consolidated school district called the South Central School District. The new district would include elementary schools in both Burke and Gregory and a school for grades 7-12 in Gregory. Currently, both communities have elementary, middle and high schools. In addition, the rural school in Iona Township, part of the Gregory School District, would close. These changes would be effective July 1, 2006.
The plan also establishes one seven-member school board to govern the South Central District. These members would be elected from throughout the territory of the new district.
During its first year of operation, which would be the 2006-07 school year, the department estimates that the South Central School District would have 96 students in the elementary school in Burke and 180 students in the elementary school in Gregory. At the 7-12 level, the district would have an estimated 264 students, with 63 percent of those students coming from Gregory and 37 from Burke.
“I think it’s safe to say that there was agreement between the two communities as to the efficiency of combining the middle and high schools. The big question was the location,” Melmer said. “We also were sensitive to the issue of not wanting to transport large numbers of elementary school children, which is one of the main reasons for maintaining separate elementary schools.”
When developing the reorganization plan, the Department of Education considered factors such as the size of the communities, efficiency of travel and cost savings.
“We have sought solutions that will sustain public education long-term for the children in this region,” Melmer said. “The plan is constructed on what will be in the best interest of children long-term, not on what is popular or perceived to win positive support at the polls.”
If the reorganization would be approved by voters, the new district would be entitled to approximately $360,000 dollars in reorganization incentive money over the next three years.