(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) The St. Joseph School District's Board of Education has pitted Southsider against Southsider.
It seems probable that board members will decide to close a Southside school at a meeting on Monday. Lake Contrary had been targeted as that school for closure along with Humboldt in north St. Joseph. However, at a work session on Thursday, board members said they are now willing to consider closing Hyde instead of Lake Contrary.
"Now what we have is school versus school. That doesn't benefit anyone," said Jennifer Martin, treasurer of the Hyde PTA.
Board members are faced with the tough decision because they need to cut anywhere from $7-8.5 million from the 2018-19 budget to balance the books. Administrators say closing two elementary schools would save the district around $3 million per year.
"We have 9-year-olds that are plotting to go out knocking door-to-door to save their school because they think that's what they can do," said Jessica Cacioppo, a parent of children who attend both Lake and Humboldt schools.
While closing any schools is a tough decision to make, the addition of Hyde into the mix has shocked and confused many parents.
"We were kind of surprised," Martin said. "Then we thought this final vote is on Monday. What can we do?"
While some might say closing Hyde would be a better financial decision because the building is more than 30 years older than Lake, administrators actually say longer-term upkeep costs at Lake will be higher.
"You look at the capital projects because on that 5-year plan, Hyde was still lower even though it's an older building and such," said Lori Prussman, SJSD board member.
In the end, it looks like it might not matter which school closes next year. A long-range board plan has the district reducing the number of elementary schools in the district from 16 to 12.
"The long-term plan is to close both those schools ultimately," Prussman said. "Spring Garden would become an elementary school that was built to be an elementary school."
The board is expected to make a final decision on school closures and other budget cuts at their next meeting scheduled for Monday, December 11. It will be held at the Troester Media Center at 3401 Renick St., starting at 5:30 p.m.