During a September 7 special meeting, the Greenbush-Middle River School Board contemplated what to do with the fourth grade students, all attending the Middle River site. This class’ size has dropped from 23 to 15 from the end of last school year to the beginning of this school year.
At the board’s September 18 regular meeting, it didn’t take any official action with this class, but heard input (gathered by Jerome) from the parents of students who left, asking them about specific reasons they are open enrolling their children outside the district and any actions the district could take to bring these students back.
One reason these parents open enrolled their children included a distrust in the board, believing it doesn’t have the students’ best interests at heart, has its own agenda, and it doesn’t want to keep the Middle River building open. Other reasons included: unhealthy environment for students, unknown future changes in Middle River, and most of their child’s classmates having left.
As for actions to bring these children back, responses included: showing them it doesn’t want to shut down the Middle River building, taking any action to regain public trust, overhauling the school board and district mindset, and returning things back to the way they were. One parent said that, at this point, their children coming back to the district wouldn’t happen.
Board members responded to some of this parent feedback. Believing the fourth graders should come back to the Greenbush site due to changing circumstances, board chairperson Shane Kilen responded to comments about the board wanting to close the Middle River building.
“I’ve never ever once said I want to close the school. But it’s just the enrollment and everything is dictating what we’re going to have to do,” Kilen said.
According to its September 14, 2017 records, the district has 325 total students, a decline from the 375 on September 13, 2016. The district lost 25 students to open enrollment– 23 to MCC, one to Badger, and one to Grygla. It had two students open enroll into the district from Tri-County.
Currently, according to reports Jerome received, 11 GMR fourth graders, along with a third grader, and a first grader ride the bus from Greenbush to Middle River. On head start days, an additional seven students ride this bus.
Kilen continued, “I’ve never wanted to do it (close a school building). I don’t know where the perception gets out there that I have wanted to do this and I have a hidden agenda. I wish somebody would tell me what my hidden agenda is so I know what it is.”
Board member Laurie Stromsodt then said the board could have done things differently. She said she knew a group of people who said they would have been fine with having all kindergarten through sixth grade in Middle River and all seventh to twelfth grade in Greenbush.
“I hate to bring it up, but MCC’s got three schools (buildings),” Stromsodt said. “… Each of us would have to bend a little bit, but I think we could have made it work. And now I think we have caused so much hard feelings out there, and the pain, I don’t know if there’s anyway to fix it.”
Before taking any action with the fourth grade class, the board requested Jerome to ask the parents of the fourth grade students (those who still attend the school district) these three questions before the next meeting on October 16: Do you have a preference on site? If the site is moved, would you leave the district? Would you support a move in the middle of the school year?
To see the complete story, read the September 27 issue of The Tribune in print or online.