ROCK FALLS – Only a few voters turned out Wednesday to get last-minute answers about the proposed consolidation of the Nelson and East Coloma school districts.
Residents of both districts will vote in a referendum to merge the two schools, as well as for new school board members, on Tuesday.
East Coloma Superintendent Kevin Andersen, who hosted the meeting, addressed tax rates and a concern that the formation of a new school district would push up tax rates.
He reminded voters that the difference between the Nelson and East Coloma tax rates is only 1 cent but that the difference between the taxes levied for debt service is more than 40 cents.
He reminded them that debt service is the responsibility of the taxpayers of the district that carries the debt, so Nelson debt is paid by Nelson residents, and East Coloma debt is paid by East Coloma residents; he said that would remain, even with the formation of a new school district.
Andersen also addressed class sizes and how consolidation would create a two-track system, or two classrooms at almost every grade, and allayed fears that students would not adjust to the changes.
Connie Laidig, a former Nelson School Board member whose great-grandchildren attend Nelson School, questioned the future of the Nelson school building.
“My biggest concern is the school sitting there empty,” she said. “My thought was it sure would be nice to keep the school, but say we can only keep it another year, then ...”
Nelson Superintendent Gregory Lutyens said consolidation really is the best arrangement for the 40-student district.
“And the name Nelson would live on in the name of the new district [East Coloma-Nelson School District No. 20],” he said. “If we had to dissolve, it would not.”
Lutyens added that the 1960 building should be used for something, but the older building should not as it has “serious problems.” He said the school board is committed to finding a suitable use for the newer building.
“I don’t think there is any intention of closing it down or unloading it,” he said.
Laidig suggested Nelson residents be able to keep bricks of the old school after demolition.
A majority of voters in both districts must approve the referendum Tuesday if consolidation is to take effect by next fall.