ISD 2142 School Board
Over the next few years, the plan will consolidate the Cook and Orr schools into a single PK-12 school that will serve students from both attendance areas. The site selection committee was charged with finding a location that would be in between the current schools to help maximize enrollment numbers. The board approved the recommended site. This school will be brand new, with a new name, mascot, and team colors to reflect the coming together of our communities. This school will provide technology and facilities that are unavailable in other school districts in our area.
School consolidation will always be a controversial issue. We both would have preferred a plan that would have kept both the Cook and Orr schools open, and made investments in the existing buildings. However, there is simply not enough money available from the state or local taxpayers to keep all seven schools open in this district. Given the choice between building a new school to serve both areas or risking closing one or both schools, we believed that consolidation was the better choice.
One-third of the residents in each of our attendance areas agreed with this approach. We thank those voters for supporting the school board's plan. However, we also realize that two-thirds of our residents did not support this bond referendum. This makes our job pretty clear - we need to make sure the facilities plan does everything it has promised, and we still need to demonstrate to many of you that this is the best alternative.
There is a lot of talk about a plan to combine the schools in Tower, Orr and Cook with the Ely schools. We do not support this option, primarily because it breaks up ISD 2142 without solving its fundamental financial problems. Splitting the district in two would not guarantee we could keep our schools open. In fact, it may lead to loss of the district's sparsity aid which, thanks to our local legislators, is 12 percent of the district's overall revenue. Area voters, including residents in the Cook and Orr attendance areas, have rejected the operating levies needed to fund operations in all of our current schools. Combining our current schools with a different district won't change that problem.
Change will always be difficult. But ISD 2142 enrollment has been dropping, and the time has come for our long-range plan that will improve our educational facilities and stabilize our finances. We need to unite behind this plan and make it work for the students and families who live in this area.
But at the same time, we know that most of you will be watching carefully to make sure that the promises of this plan are kept. We will be fighting to make sure that the new Cook and Orr school will offer the best facilities available for the education of area students. You deserve that kind of commitment from us.