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Rural Kansas voters reject attempt to dissolve school district

Voters in the Central Plains school district cast their ballots at the Immaculate Conception Parish Hall in Claflin on Tuesday.
Lori Farmer
Great Bend Tribune
Voters in the Central Plains school district cast their ballots at the Immaculate Conception Parish Hall in Claflin on Tuesday.

Voters in the Central Plains district near Great Bend voted no on a proposal to disband the district. Residents upset over the closing of Wilson High School had pushed for the plan.

A rural Kansas school district will continue to operate after voters rejected a plan to dissolve it and let the state redraw boundary lines.

More than two-thirds of voters said no to the proposal to disband the district, which could have set a precedent for other towns dealing with enrollment declines.

The proposal surfaced after the Central Plains school board voted to close Wilson High School earlier this year, citing declining enrollment and rising costs.

Residents upset over the closing pushed to dissolve the school district altogether. They said new district boundaries could save school buildings and be better for students.

Local educator Denise Schmidt, a member of the "Save Our District" campaign, said she’s relieved voters rejected the plan and preserved the district.

"I am proud of how these communities came together," Schmidt said. "I’m proud that local control and local voice in education still matters."

Animosity between regions of the district — Wilson to the north and Claflin to the south — began in 2010, when the Claflin district merged with Wilson and nearby towns to form the Central Plains district.

Schmidt said closing Wilson High School was unfortunate but necessary, and she hopes residents can move forward together.

"The harder work comes now," she said. "We can all work together, put our pride aside, and the hurt feelings, and we can make something really great for a lot of Kansas kids.”

Suzanne Perez reports on education for KMUW in Wichita and the Kansas News Service. You can follow her on Twitter @SuzPerezICT.

The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KMUW, KCUR, Kansas Public Radio and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy.

Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.

Suzanne Perez is a longtime journalist covering education and general news for KMUW and the Kansas News Service. Suzanne reviews new books for KMUW and is the co-host with Beth Golay of the Books & Whatnot podcast. Follow her on Twitter @SuzPerezICT.
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