July 18, 2024

Neighboring schools propose interest in O-M territory

Creston schools offered this map of proposed new boundaries with Creston absorbing a portion of the Orient-Macksburg school district.

ORIENT — Representatives from the four neighboring school districts for Orient-Macksburg met Monday with the Orient-Macksburg dissolvement committee on how much territory those districts are interested.

The dissolvement committee is researching how to best break up the district to be absorbed by the neighboring districts. Voters in the Orient-Macksburg district are scheduled to go to the polls Sept. 10 to decide on the new boundaries. The Orient-Macksburg school board approved last month to close the district after the 2024-2025 school year because of declining enrollment and budget constraints.

The dissolvement commitee received map proposals from Creston, East Union, Nodaway Valley and Winterset. The comittee also asked each district if people in the former Orient-Macksburg territory if they would have an opportunity to serve on their respective school board. Properties in the Orient-Macksburg district will be part of the school tax rates absorbed by the approved, neighboring district.

No decisions were made Monday.

The committee has scheduled a public hearing in conjunction with the Orient-Macksburg monthly school board meeting. The meeting is 5:30 p.m., Monday, July 15 at the school in Orient. The hearing is for Orient-Macksburg voters to explain how they would like the district territory broken up with neighboring districts.

Speaking via teleconference, Creston Community Schools Superintendent Deron Stender said Creston is interested in a portion of the Orient-Macksburg area that creates an equal distance for Creston and Nodaway Valley (Greenfield) districts. Orient-Macksburg open-enrollment students and their transportation to either Creston or Nodaway Valley would be similar. About 80 students who live in Orient-Macksburg district attend elsewhere.

Stender said the school in Orient could be used as a pick up site for those students.

Stender said the boundary for Creston, and assuming Nodaway Valley acquires some Orient-Mackburg territory, would be Adair County 310th Street. That is the paved road that runs east-west through Orient and doubles as a portion of Highway 25 in Orient. A map provided by Creston shows Nodaway Valley having the Orient-Macksburg territory north of 310th. The west border would essentially be Adair County’s Gibbon Avenue. The east border would be the Adair-Madison county line.

Creston is not interested in having the school building in Orient.

“I don’t know what we would do with it,” Stender said. He added Creston school could assist with the transition of the building to another owner. Creston has begun additions to its elementary-middle school building to replace its Early Childhood Center building.

Creston has all at-large seats on its school board.

“We will continue to explore options,” Stender said about Creston proposals Orient-Macksburg territory.

East Union Superintendent Tim Kuehl said his district is interested in the portion that includes Macksburg, in Madison County. There are some students from that area who open-enroll to East Union. Kuehl does not expect any transpo

East Union Superintendent Tim Kuehl

rtation issues for students in that area.

“We are probably more similar (to Orient-Macksburg) than the others,” he said.

East Union school board has district representation. Kuehl said he would expect redistricting to provide an opportunity for someone from the Orient-Macksburg territory to run for a school board seat.

Nodaway Valley Superintendent Paul Croghan had the most aggressive proposal among the four.

“We’d take it all if it was that easy,” he said.

Croghan said Nodaway Valley would want the east border to be the Adair-Madison county line, the south at the Adair-Union line and at the Adair-Adams county lines.

“I think Adair County should stay in Adair County,” dissolvement committee member Jana Scott said about the Orient-Macksburg district.

Iowa law allows for a limited zone for one school district to pick up open-enroll students in an adjacent district as long as both districts are in agreement. Croghan said he would not want Creston, for example, to have that access.

Croghan said he has no evidence his district is interested in the Orient school building. He added Nodaway Valley would assist in the transition of ownership if Orient-Macksburg has funding for the building for that purpose.

“Nobody wants a building sitting idle,” he said.

The dissolvement committee has said they will ask others for their input on the building and all school memorabilia.

Croghan said he needs additional research to see how a person from the Orient-Macksburg district could be a candidate for a Nodaway

Nodaway Valley school board president Kristen Jensen, left, and superintendent Paul Croghan meet with the Orient-Macksburg dissolvement committee.

Valley school board seat.

Winterset schools operations manager Ray Dawson, said Winterset is only interested in the portion of the district that is in Madison County. That includes the town of Macksburg. Winterset’s school board is all at-large. Winterset has the highest school tax rate among the four as recent improvements to their campus are being paid well into the next decade.

School districts that acquire Orient-Macksburg territory will also receive the same percentage of revenue of Orient-Macksburg assets sold. If Nodaway Valley takes on 75% of the land, it gets 75% of the revenue. School districts are also responsible for the same percentage of Orient-Macksburg’s outstanding debts. Orient-Macksburg has no debt.

Orient-Macksburg also has property tax revenue from wind turbines.

After the committee creates the new boundaries considering all the neighboring districts and input, the neighboring districts can appeal. Orient-Macksburg Superintendent Jeff Kruse said he is understanding the area in question can be excluded from the vote. The state department of education would then determine the area in question.

Should the Sept. 10 vote fail to pass, the state department of education will take over from the dissolvement committee and determine the new boundaries and school closing procedures.

John Van Nostrand

JOHN VAN NOSTRAND

An Iowa native, John's newspaper career has mostly been in small-town weeklies from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River. He first stint in Creston was from 2002 to 2005.