Heated arguments don’t break the ice in Wakonda Citizens receive cool treatment at public meeting

Heated arguments don't break the ice in Wakonda Citizens receive cool treatment at public meeting by David Lias A meeting designed to inform Wakonda citizens of issues related to the Feb. 12 election in that community's school district contained a few facts, a bit of misinformation and a whole lot of emotion.

Not long after Superintendent Ron Flynn gave a formal presentation to the crowd that nearly filled the wooden bleachers of Wakonda School's old gym, the meeting became unruly at times.

Citizens who expressed support for the dissolving of the Wakonda district were met with a mixture of condescending laughter and catcalls.

Superintendent Ron Flynn made it known at the beginning of the meeting that he was biased towards maintaining the status quo at the Wakonda School.

He cited advantages offered by both the Vermillion and Wakonda school systems. His presentation, however, generally tilted in favor of the education program offered in Wakonda.

Flynn noted that he wasn't comforted by a proposal made by the Vermillion School District. Vermillion Superintendent Bob Mayer stated, in a letter to Flynn, that the Vermillion board had agreed to keep a K-5 attendance center open for five years or as long as it is economically feasible in Wakonda should voters choose to dissolve the district.

"I guess my concern there is that some people are going to assume that means a minimum of five years, and possibly more," Flynn said. "It would be my guess that it will be a lot less than five years before they would decide it would not be feasible."

He noted that one of the advantages of a larger school, like Vermillion, is students can take advantage of more course offerings.

Flynn said that despite the smaller staff and curriculum offered by Wakonda, students are able to take the same courses that are offered in larger schools, thanks to the Distance Learning Consortium and Internet advanced placement courses.

"Vermillion probably has more classes offered than just about any school because of the influence of the university (USD)," he said.

Some of those classes, Flynn said, likely will have to be cut as the Vermillion school, just like many other South Dakota school districts, struggles with budget problems.

If Wakonda voters decide to keep their school open, the Wakonda School Board will continue its plan to build a $1.2 million addition on to the school building using capital outlay certificates.

"There's going to be a new K-4 addition," Flynn said, "and we're going to have a library and computer room facility built on."

He said leftover funds from the proposed building project would be used to remodel the existing Wakonda school facility.

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