WHITEWATER — One way or another, the School District of Whitewater would be affected if the neighboring Palmyra-Eagle Area School District dissolves.
The chances of the nearby district disbanding increased after the Palmyra-Eagle school board voted July 1 to dissolve. At its Monday, July 22, meeting, Whitewater school board members discussed about how best to prepare for a possible influx of students should that come to pass.
Palmyra-Eagle has 381 elementary school students in two buildings in Palmyra and Eagle, 133 middle school students, 255 high school students and 15 open-enrollment applicants for the 2019-20 school year.
While Whitewater School Board President Casey Judd said he was worried about people thinking Whitewater was lurking to snatch up students, he said it should be looking at how to respectfully turn some of the students into Whippets.
“The reality is, in very short order, they (the students) are going to have to go somewhere else, and we’re one of the options,” Judd said. “Doing nothing seems almost as bad as doing something.”
The dissolution of Palmyra-Eagle still needs to be approved by the state School District Boundary Appeal Board, which will begin looking at the situation in September, according to Whitewater School District business manager Matthew Sylvester-Knudtson.
The state panel has until Jan. 15 to approve or deny dissolving the district. If approved, the changes would be effective in July 2020. If the dissolution is approved, the district boundaries would be redrawn.
Whitewater board members acknowledged that the situation is complicated, but they said they want to start looking at how they can help some of the families who might be looking for a new district.
Member Jean Linos recommended holding an open house-like event to inform people about how Whitewater runs its district and how it might be a fit for Palmyra-Eagle families.
“There is a way to help these families,” Linos said. “I mean, I would want to know.”
With the possibility of adding more students, additional state funding could make its way to the district.
The Whitewater district has been looking into whether additional state funds could be received because of the unique circumstance, but there are some answers left to be had.
“I think there’s a lot of questions but not a lot of answers,” said board member Jennifer Kienbaum.
Part of the reason is that no public school district in Wisconsin has been in position to accept a disbanded district’s students since revenue limits were implemented on districts across the state.
The Wisconsin Department of Public Institution is unsure whether Whitewater’s revenue limits would change if they took in Palmyra- Eagle students because it never has happened before, Sylvester-Knudtson said.
For Superintendent Mark Elworthy, communication with area districts on what happens with the Palmyra-Eagle students will be key moving forward.
Elworthy and Sylvester-Knudtson planned to meet with Palmyra-Eagle School District leaders Monday, July 29.
“We’re going to have ongoing conversations with our neighbors,” Elworthy said. “Bottom line, if our neighbors are doing well, we’re doing well, so I think those are conversations to be had at this time.”