Franklin Ready To Move Forward Again With Consolidation Feasibility Study

By Benjamin Cox on October 29, 2022 at 10:41am

The Franklin School District is once again ready to move ahead with a reorganization feasibility study.

The district took initial steps almost a year ago to begin the process of possibly consolidating with the Waverly School District. The two districts have enjoyed some form of a co-op since the late 1990s, eventually expanding to the South County co-op in 2006.

The Franklin School District took the initial step at their January 26th meeting to enter into an agreement with Midwest School Consultants and Bill Phillips to conduct the study, but Waverly never took a vote to take up their portion of the study.

Franklin School District Superintendent Jeff Waggener says that the Franklin School Board voted Monday night to reaffirm their vote from January to pick the feasibility study process back up once again in the essence of transparency to the community now that Waverly appears to be ready: “Since there was not a sunset date on [the original vote], we thought it better to just reaffirm that for our community. There was some question at the most recent Waverly school board meeting whether or not our previous vote would count. After talking to our attorney, he said ‘no’ and there was no sunset date on the vote so it would stand. We wanted to reaffirm it in the spirit of transparency an openness to let the sunshine come in. Our second vote on the matter was basically a resolution saying that we are ready to take that next step of procuring a firm to come in and do the reorganization study and work with Waverly on that if they are ready to do that. I heard that they have a committee chair over there now for the consolidation discussion. So, that’s where we are at. We’re ready to do it. We’ve been ready since January. We have enjoyed our sports co-op with Waverly, and I think taking that next step of having an outside firm come in and do that feasibility study is a good step. It lets everybody have the information that we need to make the best decision for our kids.”

Franklin School Board members Paul Bergschneider and Willie Smith both said during Monday’s meeting that they would like to follow up in person with the Waverly School Board at their next regular meeting to relay information that the Franklin School Board had voted to hire a firm for the feasibility study. Waggener told the school board at the meeting that he would also follow up with a letter to the Waverly School District and Waverly Superintendent Dr. Andrea Guerrero to open the lines of communication.

Waggener says he believes both communities are more engaged in the process now that public meetings have been held: “I think any time that you have an open meeting with the public, you get a lot of good input. We’ve had that here. I know Waverly had that at their last meeting. It sounds like both communities are willing to take a look [at consolidation]. That’s all we are doing is committing to taking a look at consolidation to see if it works for both districts, and then, act on the recommendations of those professionals coming in and doing the study. I think it will move faster now that everybody is on the same page. I think the communities are a little bit more involved in both places now.”

Waggener says that this time around, there is not as much of a press for time to get the study done. Back in January, the feasibility study were slated to be completed for earlier this month to get it placed on the general election ballot as a referendum. Waggener told the Franklin School Board Monday night that since the October deadline has come and gone, a consolidation referendum wouldn’t appear on the ballot before voters until the 2024 General Election.