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Lyman School Board tables move to restructure elementary programs

PRESHO -- A five-minute meeting was enough to ease tensions Wednesday night in Presho. The Lyman School and its instructional committee opted to table a plan to restructure the district's elementary programs until at least the 2018-19 school year...

Instructional Committee Member Adam Ehlers speaks on behalf of the committee at a special meeting of the Lyman School Board Wednesday night at Lyman High School. (Caitlynn Peetz/Republic)
Instructional Committee Member Adam Ehlers speaks on behalf of the committee at a special meeting of the Lyman School Board Wednesday night at Lyman High School. (Caitlynn Peetz/Republic)

PRESHO - A five-minute meeting was enough to ease tensions Wednesday night in Presho.

The Lyman School and its instructional committee opted to table a plan to restructure the district's elementary programs until at least the 2018-19 school year during a special meeting at Lyman High School that converged at 6 p.m. and adjourned at 6:05 p.m.

The proposed plan would move kindergarten through second grade into one building and third through fifth grade into the other. Right now, one section of kindergarten through fifth grade is housed in Kennebec, and a second group of the same classes is in Presho.

"There's just too many questions right now," said Presho resident Colby Brakke, one of approximately 50 people in attendance, after the meeting. "I'm satisfied with their decision tonight-it gives them time to talk about some things because there's a lot of concerns."

Initially, the board hoped to implement the idea for the 2017-18 school year, but public pushback since the initial proposal in January has caused school officials to pull back the reigns in search of a more solidified, concrete plan.

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The most daunting question, Brakke said, is the extended time many young students would spend on busses en route to their school, whereas now, they are able to attend the school in or closest to their hometown. The Lyman School District serves the towns of Lower Brule, Reliance, Kennebec, Presho and Vivian, as well as rural areas throughout Lyman County.

Mostly, Brakke said, he hopes the district is able to construct a more vetted plan to present its patrons. And Presho Elementary Principal Jon Boer said the instructional committee-made up of staff, administration and board members-intends to do just that.

"(The instructional committee) thinks the benefit outweighs the cost," Boer said. "But I think, maybe if we have more of a paper to hand people to explain this is exactly what we're going to do, it would go over better."

The proposal for restructuring comes as the result of the instructional committee's analysis of data from both the Presho and Kennebec elementary schools. Now, each school receives separate state standardized tests results, sometimes creating what board member Kimm Schweitzer called "misleading data." But, more importantly, it can create friction and competition between the two schools, intended to be equal as part of the same district. And, regardless of the result of Monday night's meeting, Schweitzer said she believes the district will eventually adopt the plan.

"We want more cohesiveness and they can work together more," said Schweitzer, of Presho. "With any major change it doesn't matter how much you plan, something's going to come up that needs tweaked, so there probably will be changes, but I'm comfortable saying I think that will eventually be the committee's recommendation."

Moving forward

Another concern among the board and community members is outgoing superintendent Lynn Vlasman, who is set to retire at the end of the school year. The board voted unanimously Feb. 10 to offer a three-year contract to Rob Davis. Davis is currently the superintendent and seventh- through 12-grade principal at McIntosh. He has been with the district for eight years and will officially start in his new position July 1.

Moving forward, Instructional Committee Member Adam Ehlers said the hope will be to present Davis with a packet of information regarding the proposed plan and input from the board, the instructional committee, staff and community members. Ehlers added the instructional committee plans to have a finalized recommendation to present to the Lyman School Board by September.

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"I'm not perfect, our committee is not perfect, but we always have the best intentions for all of the children in the Lyman School District in mind," Ehlers said. "I hope someday that we can have a class start the school year together and go through school together so we can actually say that this is the first class that's actually Lyman School District."

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