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Indiana district gets state OK to pursuit split

Nov. 11, 2019
The Indiana State Board of Education has voted to let residents of the West Clark Community District decide whether to become 2 school systems.

The Indiana State Board of Educaton has voted to go forward with a plan that would let a district in the southern part of the state split into two.

The Jeffersonville News and Tribune reports  the state board voted 10-1 in favor of letting voters in the West Clark Community District decide whether to become two separate systems—with Silver Creek schools being one district and Henryville and Borden campuses teaming up for another district.

The two factions have been battling for decades for over funds and resources. Two years ago, they began the process to separate.

“Local taxpayers, parents, students should not have to deal with irreconcilable differences any longer and they should be able to vote to decide their future, because they know what’s best for their children," says West Clark board member Brian Guernsey. "Efficient and adequate educational opportunities for all students will be achieved with this separation. Educational improvements and equalized educational opportunities will also be achieved with this separation. Each district will be able to decide with their votes and their tax dollars how to best educate their children."

State board member David Freitas, who cast the lone dissenting vote, questioned many parts of the West Clark separation plan, including whether it was financially feasible and if it would result in fewer student opportunities..”

The next step involves either letting the voters decide in a May 2020 election, or, within the next 90 days, getting 55 percent of registered voters to sign a petition in favor of the separation. If a petition is successful, there will be no need for a referendum, says West Clark Board Presient Doug Coffman.

“As a board member, I would like to [pursue a petition]," Coffman says. "It has to be a board decision to decide to go with that option. I think it gives us a chance, face-to-face, to explain to a voter what the decision is all about and hopefully inform them more than what they’re reading or hearing from other people.”

But even if the petitioners or voters approve the separation, it won’t happen quickly.

“It’s about a one-year process,” Coffman says. “We’ll be West Clark next year. It’ll be the year following that it’ll be implemented, but we may function as two districts [during that time]. … I think the board is being more realistic that we need to walk through this process and not run through it.”

West Clark is the first district in Indiana to be approved to pursue a separation.

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