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Bill to help Midland School passed by Congress, waiting for Governor’s signature

The Midland School District is looking for a way out of a situation where 15 of its students attended other schools this year putting a greater burden on the district to fund education.

That solution was drafted in the form of a bill that would allow the school to contract with neighboring districts to take their high school students. Elementary school students would stay in Midland. Both houses of the Legislature have passed the bill and it now goes to the governor for consideration.

Currently the district is in reorganization talks with the Philip and Kadoka school districts, said Barry Jones, a Midland resident and member of its board of education. “Midland is a very small district,” Jones said. “We have provided students with a very, very good education for a number of years.”

The talks are set to be completed by next year so the bill, if passed into law, would only be law for one year.

“Unless you have been through consolidation you do not understand how time-consuming and difficult the issue is,” Jones said.

The district has previously passed three opt-outs of the property tax limits, but the amount needed now with the loss of the 15 students would be more than the community would support, Jones said. In other years, he said district residents were not yet ready to talk consolidation, but with the loss of the 15 students through open enrollment and moves, the “writing was on the wall.”

By reorganizing with another district, Jones says, Midland hopes to keep a K-8 attendance center so younger children don’t have to travel so far to school. “We believe this is in the best interest of the students,” Jones said.

Hank Kosters of the Associated School Boards of South Dakota said consolidation in Midland was inevitable. But things were being done there for the right reasons. “I don’t think they have a choice,” he said. “Their back is to the wall.”

The district’s superintendent resigned effective at the end of the contract year, so now the school board could contract with another district for administration. The school has also lost high school teachers who Jones said will be hard to replace.

“This is going to happen more and more frequently unless we get something fixed with sparsity,” said Senator Eric Bogue, R-Faith. Bogue is working on a bill that would give additional money to school districts with large geographic areas and shrinking student populations.