Door still open for Pleasant Ridge to join Keystone
by Dennis Sharkey
Last year it was thought to be a dead issue but now a possible move for the USD 449 Pleasant Ridge School District to Keystone is back on the table.
Currently Pleasant Ridge belongs to the Leavenworth County Special Education Cooperative but expressed a desire to leave over some disagreements with assessments last year.
Pleasant Ridge Superintendent Charles Coblentz told Keystone Director Dr. Tim Marshall last year that he did not think there was a legal way that his district could get out of their agreement with LCSEC.
Keystone’s seven board members seemed to all come to a consensus that the addition of Pleasant Ridge would be welcome if it did not negatively impact assessments to the current seven members that include all six Jefferson County School districts plus ACCHS-Effingham.
Marshall said under the current formula an addition of Pleasant Ridge would have some kind of negative impact on most districts. Current formula is based 50 percent on a school’s total enrollment and 50 percent on a school’s head count of special needs students. Pleasant Ridge has a low special needs enrollment.
Pleasant Ridge fits the mold of the other seven member districts because of the location and similar size to the other schools. Board President and Oskaloosa USD 341 Board Member John Henry said overall an addition of Pleasant Ridge would mean more resources for Keystone.
McLouth USD 342 is taking a close look at the formula and how an addition would affect the district. McLouth is facing an increase in assessments because they were the only district in Keystone to gain enrollment last year while most other districts lost students. An addition of Pleasant Ridge under the current formula could be a double hit to McLouth.
“It can’t happen under the current formula at all,” McLouth Board Member Ed Courtney told the other Keystone board members at last week’s board meeting.
Marshall said that any addition has to make sense for all seven districts.
“If one district doesn’t like it, we need to stop,” Marshall said. “It is a pretty big deal.”
Marshall said a lot of questions still have to be answered by the Pleasant Ridge district and if the move is even possible. Marshall said he doesn’t want to put in the effort when weighing the costs.
“The effort and potential strain on relationships is great,” Marshall said. “We don’t want to go through the exercise of looking at the funding formula and what all these things do and then not have it happen.”
Marshall admitted that developing a new funding formula is not an easy task. Regardless of what becomes of the Pleasant Ridge situation the formula still needs to be examined to avoid big swings in assessments like what McLouth is facing this year. Marshall cautioned board members that a change in the formula will affect boards in the future.
“Once we shift that formula we’ve also changed how we thought about we want to fund the co-op,” Marshall said. “That is a change in philosophy. Is that the way we want to run this organization?”
Marshall said the district superintendents talked about the issue at a meeting the next day after the Keystone meeting and may have come up with an idea that would not change the formula with the addition of Pleasant Ridge.
Marshall said the assessments could be balanced using the current formula so there’s no effect on the other seven districts. Essentially Pleasant Ridge would pay an annual entry fee for a period until the next agreement is negotiated.
“That has a lot of promise,” Marshall said of the idea. “If this goes any further we will probably look at that.”
Marshall said that Pleasant Ridge would have to see if the fee would make it disadvantageous to make a move.
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