Voters to decide on future of Central Plains School District

Those who live in the district will vote Aug. 1 to disorganize the district.
Published: May. 22, 2023 at 10:52 PM CDT
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CLAFLIN, Kan. (KWCH) - The Central Plains School Board met Monday night to approve its republished budget due to at-risk funding. Also on the agenda was a discussion about a petition filed to disorganize the district.

USD 112 Interim Superintendent Bill Lowry said the petition was filed about two weeks ago in Ellsworth County. The signatures on the petition were verified and a date for the public to vote on whether to disorganize the district was set for Aug. 1, the current primary date.

If approved, Lowry said the measure would go to the Kansas State Board of Education which would have to decide where the schools in the district would go.

“If it’s a yes, they’re re-putting territory in school districts, all the counties have got to shuffle their tax bases. All those have to be reshuffled. That gives them about six months before we start budgets July 1. And that gives them time to prepare for the next budget cycle,” said Lowry.

USD 112 is made up of three school buildings, Central Plains Elementary in Holyrood, Central Plains Junior/Senior High in Claflin, and Wilson Schools.

“So, we’re a unified school district. We’re in five counties with the population of two 1A high schools. So, that’s kind of a problem with having two 1A high schools and a little bit of a decline,” said Lowry.

He said this year, the district saw a slight increase in enrollment, but he doesn’t know if that’ll be the case next year.

“That was kind of a surprise. We’ve had a lot of younger people, I believe, start moving. But, don’t know if that’s a trend, if that’s going to go away, or if it’s in transit and will go away next year,” Lowry said.

Parents of students at the Wilson Junior/Senior High School filed the petition after the Central Plains school board voted to close the school due to expenses. Lowry said it’s not uncommon in rural districts across Kansas.

“To reduce expenses, boards are taking action. I’ve been here since July as interim superintendent. They took action about four years ago to close another building so this has been a little bit of a trend in this district,” Lowry said.

Lowry said Monday’s meeting was just one opportunity for people to gain more information on the issue. He said more meetings will likely be planned before the Aug. 1 vote.

“Many people do not know what the vote is going to be about August 1 and they’re trying to collect more information, and probably try to establish groups to go out and promote one side or the other of this election,” Lowry said.

If the disorganization is approved Aug. 1, Lowry said it would go into effect on July 1, 2024.

“You could have up to possibly 10 districts get territory on this. So, if they get territory that has a building, that’s up to them whether they sell it, lease it, reopen it if they need it, it’s just up to them,” Lowry said.