Bement school board keeps reorganization options open
BEMENT — Bement school board members began Wednesday night's session knowing a school reorganization could be on the horizon.
But it took more than 90 minutes of discussion to figure out which options of a feasibility study with the Cerro Gordo school district they should look at.
Although deactivation of the high school seemed the favored path, the board directed the two superintendents to pursue a study that would also include information on full consolidation and a cooperative high school.
"I'm not sure what the answer is, but I don't want to limit ourselves to just deactivation," said board member Jodi Wright.
With deactivation, Bement High School students and possibly middle school students as well would attend classes at Cerro Gordo.
Bement would keep its district and local school board to operate at least an elementary school.
Jeff Funk said that if reorganization was necessary, only high school deactivation should be on the table.
"It would allow us to maintain our school district here. But I would not be in favor of looking at other options beyond that," he said.
However, by the time discussion concluded, all six board members voted in favor of a study that included the three options.
The two school boards held a joint meeting in Cerro Gordo last month to hear information on reorganization options.
Bement Superintendent Daniel Brue estimated the cost of a feasibility study at $10,000 and was confident the state would kick in 75 percent of the cost. The remaining $2,500 would be split between the two school districts.
Brue said he thought the study would take about six months.
The Cerro Gordo school board will vote on the possibility of a feasibility study on Wednesday, June 19.
Cerro Gordo Superintendent Brett Robinson spoke at Wednesday's Bement school board session. He said he felt the success of recent collaborations both on the athletic fields and in the classroom would be expanded with reorganization.
The two districts had cooperative arrangements in several sports this past school year, in addition to sharing an agriculture instructor.
Robinson said a major benefit Bement students would have is access to the Richland Transfer Academy, where high school students can obtain college credit; and the more vocationally oriented Heartland Technical Academy.
"The opportunities our students have been able to get through the Transfer Academy and for many years through the Technical Academy have been major benefits to the students of Cerro Gordo, and could also benefit the students at Bement," said Robinson.
He said one Cerro Gordo High School student has the opportunity to accrue up to 41 hours of college credit by the time she graduates next May.
Robinson said Bement students would also have access to more elective offerings if they start attending Cerro Gordo.
Cerro Gordo would likely benefit from Bement's more expansive industrial arts curriculum.
The two high schools would have a combined enrollment of about 295 students, which Robinson said would fit in the current Cerro Gordo building.
Brue estimated the Bement district would save about $200,000 annually by deactivating the high school. That would not only balance a budget that was about $70,000 in the red this fiscal year, but also leave dollars for projects that could include technology upgrades and building maintenance.
Since the feasibility study will likely not be available until January 2014, it will be difficult to get the question on next spring's primary ballot.
That means any reorganization would probably have to wait until at least the fall of 2015.