Parents are concerned that Buffalo Elementary school might be closed within two years to help the North Platte school district cope with budget cuts.
The word has leaked from the Buffalo Parent Teacher Organization that next year, 2018-19, could be the last year for the school, which serves northwest North Platte.
If the school were closed, students would be transferred to Lincoln Elementary near Ninth and Vine, according to the information.
Buffalo and Lincoln are the only two elementary schools on the north side of town.
‘The discussion of closing Buffalo School has happened,” parent Rebecca Barton told the Bulletin. “The sources that mentioned the closing are very reliable and well informed. The NPPSD website also had a plan outlined on their website of how Lincoln school could be a made a three-track school (three classes in each grade.) This was removed from the website shortly after it was posted.”
The school’s top administrators did not respond to the Bulletin’s request late last week for official information.
Barton said moving students into Lincoln would lead to a very large number of students in one building.
Concerned parents and taxpayers are urged to attend the next North Platte School Board meeting, which will be held on Monday, May 14 at the McKinley Education Center, 301 West F St. The meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. The time for public comments is normally near the end of the meeting.
In a facebook post, school board member JoAnn Lundgreen said there has not been any serious discussion on the board about closing Buffalo. Lundgreen said administrators conducted a facilities study last year and possible changes have been generally mentioned, but nothing specific.
Lundgreen said Supt. Ron Hanson told her in an email that there are no plans to relocate Buffalo students in the 2018-19 school year. But the concern is that 2018-19 is the last year for Buffalo, and students will be relocated the following year.
On Thursday, after the Bulletin print edition Wednesday reported that parents are concerned about possible closure of Buffalo, Hanson told the competing newspaper that there have been some preliminary discussions about re-shifting programs. In that report, he said three tracks at Lincoln “would save some on staff members, or doubling up on services.”
Barton told the Bulletin that school officials are reportedly discussing using Buffalo only for preschool.
According to the district’s latest enrollment numbers, Buffalo had 161 K-5 students at the end of April — the third smallest enrollment of any North Platte elementary school. There are 15-20 students in preschool too.
Lincoln has 207 K-5 students.
The Lake has 90 K-5 students and Osgood has 126. Those two schools serve the south edge of the city as well as families near Lake Maloney. They are somewhat consolidated and supervised by one principal.
The school district is facing a second consecutive year of a nearly $1 million reduction in state aid.
In the school year now ending, the district endured a $1.4 million cut and eliminated some jobs due to a tight state budget. The loss of state aid was coupled by the fact that North Platte’s enrollment declined about 110 students compared to the year before, so even more state aid was lost, because state aid is based on enrollment.
In February, Simpson told the school board that district leaders might have to consider consolidating classes into fewer buildings, as well as hopefully finding ways to attract more students.
Property taxpayers will likely pick up the financial shortfall, according to a February budget summary from Director of Finance Stuart Simpson.
Hall school, Learning Center
Also at the school board meeting on Monday, the board is likely to vote to authorize Supt. Ron Hanson and/or Stuart Simpson to pursue the sale of Hall School, according to the agenda.
Another building that could be closed and sold is the Learning Center on the Madison School grounds. The Learning Center provides a small, separate building for alternative studies for high school students at-risk of failure. Currently, 11 students are enrolled there, down from 16 in January.
The Learning Center’s operation could be moved to North Platte High, according to preliminary discussions.
The school board will also consider an empty seat on six-member board, following the resignation of Alecia Hothan. Hothan and her family have moved out of Ward 3. On April 26, she sent a letter to the board and Supt. Hanson on April 26 notifying them that April 30 was her last day on the board.
(This report was updated Friday afternoon. )