Heather Baker | staff writer
Two of the towns in the USD 329 district released resolutions addressing the upcoming bond vote.
The Maple Hill resolution from October 10 encourages citizens to oppose the vote on the November 8 ballot.
The resolution states that the City of Maple Hill is “unanimously opposed to any effort by the USD No. 329 School Board to close the Maple Hill Grade School,” and explains that a Pre-K-5th grade school is vital in attracting new families, boosting economic development and in promoting social and educational growth in the Maple Hill community.
The Paxico resolution from October 24 is less specific about opposition to the bond, but does state that the council is “opposed to any effort by the USD 329 school board to close the Wabaunsee Junior High School in Paxico, Kansas.”
In an email response to the Charger, Maple Hill city council president Aaron Popelka said “Members of the Council were concerned about the effect losing the school would have on the Maple Hill community and the lack of outreach by the USD 329 School Board. A draft resolution was discussed as a way to express the frustration of the community and do what was possible to prevent closure of the school.” The resolution passed with a unanimous vote.
In terms of communication with the school district, Popelka said there was no outreach from USD 329 about the bond and the resulting school closure. He said the first the council heard of the closing was at a community meeting about a month before the regular city council meeting that led to the resolution.
“The public meeting was disappointing because not one school board member, including the one representing Maple Hill, bothered to show up,” Popelka said, “Many are frustrated by the sudden and abrupt notice given to the community about the plan to close the school with only one month until the election.”
Multiple board members and superintendent Troy Pitsch were at a public meeting Thursday night in Maple Hill to address community concerns.
In response to the Maple Hill resolution, Pitsch said “Change is hard. We’re not going to lose sight of the importance of student learning, student safety and providing the best education for our kids, period.”
Popelka said the main hope of the city council is to get administrators and the USD 329 school board to listen to the opinions of the community. “They (the community) want Maple Hill Elementary to remain open with renovations necessary to afford our children a quality learning space, while also being responsible with taxpayer dollars.”
Paxico resident Krista Johnson said the city council’s resolutions don’t represent the views of all the residents. She supports the bond, even knowing it would lead to the closing of the junior high school. She also said her farming family would definitely be financially impacted if the bond passes.
Despite this, she said she supports the bond for the sake of her three kids. “My kids have a 50-minute bus ride to school, and a 50-minute bus ride back. That’s two extra hours added to every school day. They’re mostly excited at the idea of having shorter bus rides and shorter school days in general.”