[MAY 8, 2006]
A group of Elkhart residents, Citizens for
Education, has banded together in an effort to learn more about a
recent decision of the school board to consolidate the Elkhart and
Mount Pulaski junior highs. The residents first heard about the
consideration at an informational meeting on Feb. 1. They were told
that combining the schools would provide better social and academic
opportunities for the students and that this was not, yet, a
However, at the next Mount Pulaski Community Unit District 23 Board
of Education meeting, on Feb. 27, the board announced that they
would be going forth with the consolidation, only now it was for
According to accounts of people in attendance at that meeting,
the floor was opened to the public. Residents, community leaders and
parents addressed the board. Some expressed opposition; others asked
for the information that led the board to their decision.
Reportedly the board listened to public responses but had no
responses to questions about the decision-making process and the
The following month, on March 27, the floor was not opened to
comments, and the measure to consolidate the grades was passed with
one board member in opposition.
The joining of the two junior high classes is set to begin one
year from this fall. Elkhart sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade
students would be bused to Mount Pulaski starting the 2007-2008
Seventy-eight students attend the K-8 Elkhart Grade School. At
present 15-17 would be transferred, with a possible 27-30
transferred in the future.
Community leaders and numerous residents said they were
disappointed that they were not listened to, and they did not get
answers to their questions.
When LDN contacted the school board president, David Meister, for
confirmation of information or comment, he refused any comment or to
confirm information. Likewise, calls placed to Superintendent Phil
Shelton were not returned.
Community leaders would like the action postponed. They feel the
community is ready to grow, and this would help not only the Elkhart
School, but also the whole district. A new subdivision has already
been established with a seed home ready, and lots are prepared to be
built on. Additionally, up the hill there were eight lots added last
year. It is believed that growth, bringing children into the
schools, will come in Elkhart over the next couple of years and that
growth will only serve to strengthen the whole school district.
Village President Steve Anderson said he had met with a couple of
school officials, including Shelton and Meister, and heard of their
views and potential plans when he first took office. He said they
all agreed to allow the new housing developments that were in
process opportunity to bring new families into the community.
The loss of the
junior high classes would make the community less marketable.
Once the classes are
gone it would be difficult to bring them back even if there was
The remaining K-5
classes in the school are at greater risk for future
Residents would also like to see the stats on how the district
will save money by moving the three classes.
Other financial factors
The school district taxpayers' money all goes in one pot for all
the students in the school district.
Last year Elkhart residents paid $94,218 ($50,978.73 from Elkhart
Township and $43,240 Hurlbut Township) into the school district.
This was 31 percent of the $304,500.67 taxes collected within the
The school board decided to renovate the Mount Pulaski High
School cafeteria last year. Reportedly the project deviated from the
$1.2 million original plan and became a 10,000-foot addition that
not only included a new kitchen and cafeteria, but also added two
new classrooms, doubling the price to end at $2.4 million expansion.
Residents are disappointed that their voices have not been heard
by the board. They feel that keeping the school in the community
would increase the community's opportunity to grow, and then all
would benefit from that growth, with benefits to the entire school
Citizens for Education has requested financial and past meeting
information from the school board in order to understand the board's
Citizens for Education meets tonight at 7 p.m. at the town hall
to discuss progress and future plans. Everyone from the school
district is invited to attend the meeting. They are looking for
opinions and thoughts on the future of Elkhart Grade School.