The Milroy School District has seen a lot of changes over the years.
What began as a K-12 program, was altered in 1989 when school leadership opted to drop Grades 9-12 and offer a K-8 program.
As time when on other challenges existed, which led to more changes, including the development of two distinct schools, including the public school, which offered programming in preschool and in Grades 5-8, as well as a charter school that provided programming for Grades K-4.
“In 2004 the school was in the red and went into statutory operating debt,” said Kim Jenniges, who is the current Milroy public school board chair. “The school board at that time held several public meetings and as a result the charter school opened."
In the beginning, the charter school was sponsored by the public school, and the two separate school systems co-existed in the same building.
“What we have been offering is the only one of its kind,” said Krista Zeug, charter school board chair. “Through the years the staff and boards for each school have worked together to provide a high-quality, seamless education for students.”
Times have changed, and as a result the two school boards have been meeting to determine the best option for the school.
“We have talked a lot about different options,” said Jenniges, adding the two boards have worked together and have sought guidance from different entities, such as the Minnesota Department of Education and the Southwest/West Central Service Cooperatives.
In the end, the answer was clear. That answer was presented to the community Jan. 9 during a public meeting at the school.
While the final decision has not been officially approved by the two boards, the direction both boards are moving toward is the dissolution of the charter school and the development of a public school program that offers educational programming for students in preschool through the sixth grade.
More discussions are going to take place in the weeks to come, said Jenniges, adding meetings will be held with different groups in the community to better explain the proposal. Then in February the two boards will vote on that proposal.
If approved, the new program would begin with the start of the 2018-19 school year.
Families who would have students in grades seven and eight were notified in advance of the meeting, and Jenniges said the school’s leadership will be working closely with those families to help them find the best fit for their child for the next school year.
“This is not a decision that we have taken lightly,” said Jenniges, adding, however, the boards feel this is the best option to ensure the Milroy school can continue to provide a quality education program for students into the future.
No, the school is not closing, and projections show that a P-6 model can be successful, said Wade McKittrick, Milroy school superintendent.
With the move away from the charter school and back to a public school property owners in the Milroy school district will see a change in their property taxes based on the levy. With more students enrolled in the public school again, there will be added levy dollars being collected for those students.
Having the two programs working together has been a success over the years, said Zeug, adding, however, in terms of finances, moving forward and continuing down the same path was just not fiscally responsible.
The public school does have a strong fund balance, said Jenniges, adding the board has been very conservative over the years to ensure those funds are available in case of emergencies that might arise.
State funding for charter schools has not kept up with inflation over the years, which has proved to be financially challenging for the MILROY charter school, and because of the lack of funding the decision to dissolve the charter school is being proposed.
Jenniges and Zeug said a lot of work has been done to get to this point, and there is still work left to be done.