Activity coop or unified district could mean more student opportunities
By Sheri Hink-Wagner
The Wauneta Breeze
Committees from the Wauneta-Palisade Public Schools Board and the Hayes Center Public School Board have begun discussions regarding a possible cooperative agreement (coop) or unification of the districts.
WP representatives included board president Jon Anderjaska, school board members John Jutten and Allison Sandman, as well as Randy Geier, WP Superintendent. HC representatives at the meeting included new HC board president Aaron Broz, school board members Toby Cox and Dexter Lacey and Tony Primavera, HC principal/acting superintendent.
The two committees met in Palisade Feb. 4 to begin the discussion.
HC approached WP to discuss a possible cooperative agreement for high school sports. However, through the discussions, WP committee members pushed the HC committee to consider either a coop of all activities for grades 7-12 or a unification of the two school districts.
An activity coop would entail the two districts combining on activities (such as speech, one-act, etc.) as well as sports. The two schools would enter competitions as a new, combined team instead of individual school teams.
If the districts decide to unify, the cooperation could run deeper. Unified districts have more options to work together, such as combining classrooms.
For instance, if one of the districts had low numbers in one grade, they would have the option of combining that grade with the other district. It could also mean bringing back activities the two districts currently don’t offer, such as golf.
With a unification, the districts would also pool their resources–their tax base and students. It also offers flexibility for change.
During the WP school board retreat Monday, Board President Anderjaska explained that a district unification is very flexible and can be more temporary than a school merger. The WP and HC boards would be able to negotiate cooperation depending on their needs.
In an interview Tuesday, Anderjaska said the WP board would prefer district unification over an activity coop because the coop could potentially cause increased costs for WP due to transportation and new uniforms. Whereas if the districts unified, there would be shared funding.
“The Wauneta-Palisade school board is advocating strongly for unification unless the Hayes Center school board comes up with options to make cooping more appealing,” explained Anderjaska.
How funds would be shared has not been determined. However, Anderjaska said they do know taxpayers would not be levied twice. The tax askings could come from the two districts or from the unified district. But either way, taxpayers will only be taxed once.
Under a district unification, both districts would continue to have their own boards. A unified board would also be created with members from each district board serving on the unified board.
At this point, the WP school board is still researching the positive and negative attributes of both possibilities (coop and unification) and no decisions have been made.
WP committee members expect to hear an initial response from the HC committee within the next week.
Anderjaska indicated the districts are on a short time line to make a decision because the Nebraska School Activities Association’s (NSAA) deadline for next year’s school activities is April 1.
He also indicated the schools want to make a decision soon because they share many of the same athletic opponents and if the districts enter a coop or unification it would leave openings in other schools’ sports schedules.
He said, “It’s only fair to give our common opponents time to adjust their schedules.”
If the HC committee indicates interest in continuing discussions, the two committees will continue to negotiate the best course of action for the two districts.
Anderjaska said the WP school board plans to proceed cautiously and with thought for what’s best for WP’s students and the future of the district. If discussions move forward, public meetings will be held to gather input from the Wauneta, Hamlet, Palisade and Hayes Center communities.