One thing was constant throughout the Ewing Board of Eductaion on Wednesday night - if Ewing doesn’t combine with Clearwater-Orchard now, it will have to happen in the near future.
Dr. Gerald Ehlers, who presented the feasibility study between Ewing and Nebraska Unified District #1 last month, said the outcome is inevitable due to the dropping numbers.
The board gathered with Ehlers on Wednesday in Ewing to ask questions and clarify some numbers.
“Forget about all the other options, a school here, here and here,” board member Jason Schindler said. “Just one high school would be something you could do to show this is what we are spending now, and this is what a new school would cost, PK-12.”
Pete Funk agreed, “I don’t really see an advantage if we don’t do a new school.”
It was also discussed that with the three schools combined, each grade would have two classrooms with around 15 students in each, which is optimal.
The audience was involved throughout the meeting. One member of the audience asked the board what the next step is and what they thought would be the best option.
Mark Ramold suggested taking a “straw poll vote” to get an idea what the board members were thinking. An official vote was not possible because it was not on the agenda.
The board agreed unanimously via the "straw poll vote" on a new building for PK-12.
Schnindler initially wanted to have an elementary site in each town and a different joint middle and high school site. But looking at the funds, he switched his opinion to a new PK-12 building.
“Money wise, it probably doesn’t make any sense,” Schnindler commented. “You do that and then in 10 years you’ll end up with another battle.”
Ehlers said, “Initially you’re talking about a vote going to three separate districts, and somehow you have to tie all of that together with a new building and merger. I don’t think you want to get involved with three separate district’s own new buildings. That is a disaster waiting to happen.”
Ehler recommended hiring three parties to get the answers that the board was looking for.
“If the plan selected is to go with a new structure, for example a new pk-12, obviously you would need to get three parties involved,” Ehlers said.
He recommended hiring an architect, fiscal agent and an attorney in which all three districts would split the costs equally.
Funk reminded the board they need to make sure all districts are on board with this plan. The board decided that approving to pay their portion of the hiring of three parties would be on the agenda for next week’s meeting.
“I think the next move if for you to decide collectively what is the best to move forward, and be able to justify that,” Ehlers said.
A new concept was also presented where the PK-4 is at Ewing, middle school 5-8 at Orchard and 9-12 at Clearwater.
That option, they said, had the same problem as a few other concepts. Ewing’s school is not big enough to accommodate PK-4 with only eight possible rooms instead of the 11 needed.
The question of what to do with the old buildings was discussed as well. An audience member said walking away from Ewing’s site would be easier than the other two because Ewing hasn’t had as many upgrades and additions as the other two.
Ehlers said his two main concerns with Ewing is the declining enrollment numbers and the size of the school.
The next Ewing School Board meeting will be Wednesday, Jan. 12.