MAPS considers reconfiguration of schools
As part of their regular meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 26, the Merrill Area Public Schools Finance and Human Resources Committee began discussions on a possible reconfiguration of which grades will attend each school in the district.
In the model presented at the meeting, the committee discussed a scenario where the school district will close down Jefferson Elementary School and have grades K-3 at Washington and Kate Goodrich Elementary schools, grades 4-7 to attend Prairie River Middle School and grades 8-12 at Merrill High School.
According to MAPS Superintendent Dr. John Sample, the reconfiguration of classes was originally part of the district’s plan, if the MAPS referendum would have failed in 2018.
“If our referendum would have failed in 2018, we would have had to close Jefferson and Maple Grove and this was the model we were looking at switching to for our schools,” said Sample.
“We are very grateful for the community and their willingness to pass our last referendum, but due to continued declining enrollment, we must continue to search for cost saving measures and new ways to improve our student achievement. Where it is at right now is unacceptable.”
At Wednesday’s meeting, MAPS Director of Finance Brian Dasher presented a chart from 2018 which showed the possible savings the school district would realize. with the closure of Maple Grove and Jefferson schools; totaling $951,000.
Dasher explained that due to a loss of four staff members, the school district has already realized some of those projected savings. However, in his projections, Dasher predicted losing nearly 60 students next year which would effectively take away $600,000 of those savings ($10,000 per student).
MAPS Treasurer Jon Smith explained that closing Jefferson would not bring much savings in the short term; citing building maintenance as the main area of savings.
“By losing those 60 students we wouldn’t really see much savings in the short term by closing Jefferson,” commented Smith.
“Building maintenance would really be where we save money with Jefferson. Our big issue here is declining enrollment. We may not save a lot short-term by closing Jefferson, but we would reduce the risk of losing money in the future.”
In an interview with Dr. Sample, following Wednesday’s meeting, he explained that more discussion on this topic will come in April.
“We will really start crunching our numbers here in April,” said Sample.
“We plan to bring this model, along with four or five different models to each board meeting in April as well. As we get closer to our next referendum, we need to be fiscally responsible. The community was so gracious in passing our last referendum and we don’t want to go back to the community and ask for more money, without doing our part and looking for savings where ever possible.”