NELIGH – It’s a conundrum facing small school districts state-wide, balancing the need to expand and offer different programs with keeping levies low. Some school officials in Northeast Nebraska are making moves they hope will keep them ahead of the curve.
Monday night, the Neligh-Oakdale School Board voted to form a three-person subcommittee. Their purpose is to open lines of communication with neighboring school districts to figure out how best they can serve all students in the area.
“Their objective for the foreseeable future is to engage any and all school districts who may be talking about sharing resources, co-op’ing or consolidating; to engage in a conversation and basically have a seat at the table,” Gregory said.
Gregory is quick to point out that this isn’t a move to consolidate necessarily, but he says when it comes to what’s best for the students, everything should be on the table.
“There’s merit to sharing staff,” Gregory said. “There’s merit to doing a unified district or co-op’ing sports. There are a lot of different tools out there. It’s just a matter of which one works best for your district.”
A bill in the Nebraska Legislature two years ago by Norfolk Sen. Jim Scheer sought to do something similar at the state level, but it didn’t make it out of committee. Gregory says local districts won’t always be able to rely on the state to keep them viable.
“I think local districts need to be proactive,” Gregory said. “I don’t think you can stand and wait for the Unicameral. There are a lot of good bills being considered. There are some bills related to school funding that I like. But I think you have to stay ahead of the curve.”
The Clearwater-Orchard and Ewing school boards are also expected to vote on forming subcommittees this week. After that, Gregory says there’s no set timetable or plan for what to do next.
“There’s not a plan per se,” Gregory said. “It’s just to see what is out there. These things kind of come and go in waves and perhaps we’ll have a lull. But if it picks up steam again in some direction then [the subcommittee] would still do that.”