Amy Cunningham
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Parents from the Hillsdale portion of the Paola school district made an impassioned plea to the Spring Hill School Board to consider petitioning the state board of education for a takeover of their area.
The Hillsdale group is opposed to Paola’s plan to close their elementary school and shift 107 elementary students into other schools in the district.  The group says they have collected more than 120 signatures on a petition to help the Spring Hill District to make a case to the state board.
Through representative Kimberly DeYoung, Hillsdale parents presented an idea that would have Spring Hill taking over an area north of U.S. 68 Highway, west to Osawatomie Road and all of the area north of Hillsdale Lake.  Including high school and middle school students, more than 270 youngsters would be affected by the change.
DeYoung said her group worries about what might happen to their area should the elementary school close.  She believes the loss of the school would be harmful to the students but said that it would also have an adverse effect on the community.
“Rural communities first stop growing, then start declining when schools close,” DeYoung said.
The Hillsdale parents hope that transferring the territory could be mutually beneficial to both school districts – helping Spring Hill to solve their space issues and helping Paola to save costs by cutting a school they believe they no longer need.
“Consider this, if the Spring Hill School District were to (move forward with this plan) they would be getting a fully furnished turn-key school which would allow Spring Hill to balance the student population before 2013,” DeYoung envisioned.
Spring Hill School Board member Bill Meek was not swayed by DeYoung’s argument.  He said through his research of the plan he discovered that operating the school would put Spring Hill in the hole by $100,000 per year.  He also explained that there would be other real costs that the district was not prepared to handle such as paying to acquire the building, equipping the building with technologies, and, he worried about setting a precedent for hostilely taking over an area from another district.
“I don’t see a positive,” he said.  “At best we could hope for is (to gain) 118 students and making enemies with another school district…weighing all the numbers, basing it on (Full Time Equivalent), we would lose money.  My recommendation to the board would be not to go forward with this.”
The rest of the Spring Hill Board Members agreed with Meek’s recommendation and declined the parent’s proposal to pursue a transfer of the Hillsdale area to the Spring Hill School District.