Wakonda citizens greet Vermillion proposal with suspicion

Wakonda citizens greet Vermillion proposal with suspicion by David Lias A proposal from the Vermillion School Board provided little comfort to most of the Wakonda citizens who attended a public meeting at the Wakonda School to discuss the Feb. 12 election to decide the fate of the district.

The communication from Vermillion, in fact, wasn't viewed as a gesture of good will. Wakonda citizens accused the Vermillion School District of only being interested in gaining state funding by promoting the dissolving of the Wakonda School District.

Vermillion Superintendent Robert Mayer, in a letter to Wakonda Superintendent Ron Flynn, stated that should voters dissolve the Wakonda district:


* The Vermillion district will provide a K-5 elementary school in Wakonda for five years or as long as it is economically feasible.


* The Vermillion district will employ the current Wakonda staff to provide services in that K-5 attendance center.


* The Vermillion district will provide transportation for Wakonda children to whichever school they attend. Shuttle service will be provided to students who participate in extracurricular activities in Vermillion.


* School programs K-5 may be held in Wakonda instead of traveling to Vermillion.


* Vermillion High School would play one boys' and one girls' varsity basketball game in Wakonda. A varsity and junior varsity volleyball game would be played in Wakonda. Junior varsity and junior high basketball and volleyball games would also be scheduled in Wakonda.

Mayer stated that Wakonda citizens can be assured that their children would be given the same opportunities as Vermillion children, and that the Vermillion School District was providing this offer in good faith.

Flynn noted that Vermillion would gain incentive education funds from the state if Wakonda voters decided to dissolve their district and join with the Vermillion School District.

Soon Vermillion's motives were questioned. It wasn't until the very end of the meeting that Wakonda School Board member Van Moser told citizens that Wakonda approached the Vermillion School District after conducting a survey that indicated Vermillion was the most popular choice of area schools.

Earlier this month, South Dakota Secretary of Education Ray Christensen approved the dissolution plan and set the election date.

The Vermillion School Board had earlier given its okay to the proposal. Under state law, the plan needs approval from the school board of the receiving district but not its voters.

A group of Wakonda patrons petitioned for dissolution last year. They said enrollment had grown too small to offer a quality education.

The district enrolls 188 students in K-12, including 10 foreign-exchange students.

The petitioners also cited the expense of running the district and the possible loss of more students and state aid through open enrollment.

District supporters say local students benefit from the smaller classes.

Flynn noted Wednesday that the Wakonda schools offer a variety of courses with the help of distance learning, and students earn high achievement and college-entrance test scores.

Flynn and other citizens who voiced support for keeping the Wakonda School argued that dissolution will kill Wakonda, and students will face long bus rides to other attendance sites.

A building project for a K-4 addition, city-school library and remodeling of the 1922 school has been put on hold until after the election.

Three bond issues fell just short of the 60 percent majority for passage.

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