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By Mark Johnson/For The Richmond News
This school year, Stet R-XV is on solid financial footing, assisted in part by cost savings created by the shift to a four-day week. In fact, the school is currently in position to finish the school year with a small positive fund balance.
Looking ahead, though, leaders see Stet R-XV’s long-term viability as a charter school, the first in Missouri outside Kansas City and St. Louis. The enabling legislation should be introduced next spring in Jefferson City.
Superintendent John Wiggans said charter status would open up more funding and instructional opportunities for the K-12 school, which currently has an enrollment of 64 students.
Stet school board members met in a special session last week to receive more information about a successful rural Kansas charter school operation, which is showing signs of steady growth. Wiggans and several board members recently visited the operation.
Preparing for eventualities in the event the charter plans fall short and the economy fails to recover in a timely fashion, board members and Wiggans also took part in a long-range planning session at last week’s meeting, looking up to five years into the future.
“If we had 50 or fewer students it could make it difficult to go on,” the superintendent said the next day, citing the threat of declining enrollment caused by the economy keeping new families from moving into the school district.
Projections show, though, that Stet’s enrollment should be relatively stable for at least the next two years.
Wiggans said the board also realizes the potential threat to state funding for small schools created by costs created by the Kansas City Missouri School District’s loss of accreditation. That takes effect Jan. 1, 2012.
At this time, the state has not identified a source to cover the costs.
Should smaller school districts bear the brunt of covering the costs through funding cutbacks, Wiggans said Stet in its current form could eventually be forced into consolidation with surrounding school districts.
He stressed, though, that the focus at this time is on creating a charter school and building on the opportunities the transition could create.