The Board of Education of
Unified School District 475 Geary County Schools voted to close Custer Hill Elementary
School at the end of the 2014 to 2015 school year during a special Board of
Education meeting April 21 at CHES.
“(We) have given much
thought and reflection to this issue. We want you to know that we have not
taken this lightly. Closing a school’s an important decision and may affect
many lives, and we are taking it very seriously,” said Ferrell Miller,
president, USD 475 Board of Education.
The special meeting
included presentations by William Clark, director of operations, USD 475 Board
of Education, and Janet Christian, executive director of finance, USD 475, as
well as open comments from the public.
After discussing some of
the challenges currently facing CHES, the installation’s overall student
capacity and projections of future student enrollment, Clark presented a
decision matrix ranking three possible outcomes. Those outcomes included closing
the school at the end of the current school year, closing the school at the end
of the next school year or keeping the school open indefinitely.
Clark recommended the
school remain open for one more year.
Christian then discussed
the school’s projected financials for the coming year. However, she pointed out
those projections included several unknowns, like actual enrollment numbers, a
finalized budget, which will not be available until May, and the results of
From a financial
perspective, Christian said the school could feasibly remain open for another
After Clark and Christian
presented their considerations and analysis, a public hearing portion opened the
floor for those in attendance to share their remarks.
Several speakers gave emotional
pleas to consider the students, bring the decision to a swift resolution and to
take their concerns into account.
Following the public’s
remarks, the board conducted an open discussion during which several board
members commented they wanted to make an informed decision about the school’s future,
and expressed a commitment to be the best possible stewards of the school’s students,
as well as taxpayer dollars.
“Our No. 1 priority … is
the students,” Miller said. “We’re going to do the right thing.”
Sgt. Maj. Ancel Bartlett, Fort
Riley representative, expressed that Fort Riley and 1st Infantry Division
leadership would support the board’s decision.
Board member Brian Field moved
to close CHES at the conclusion of the 2014 to 2015 school year. Kimberly Milleson,
vice president, USD 475 Board of Education, seconded the motion, which then passed
by a vote of 4-1 in favor, with board member Carolyn Gaston dissenting.
As the school’s staff and parents
filed out of the gymnasium following the vote to close the school, several hugs
were exchanged in the hallway.
The school will remain open
for one more year, during which time USD 475 will develop an operations plan to
take into account concerns expressed by CHES staff and families.
“I’m glad we have another year together as a staff and
as a family, and that we can continue to provide the best education for our
students,” said Melanie Laster, principal, CHES.