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USD 112 special election set for Aug. 1
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ELLSWORTH — The date has been set for a special election seeking to disband the USD 112 Central Plains school district.

The petition that prompted the special election was filed after the USD 112 Board of Education voted 5-2 to close Wilson High School at the close of the 2022-2023 school year. The board voted to consolidate all 7-12th grade students to Central Plains Junior-Senior High School in Claflin.

Ellsworth County Clerk Shelly Vopat said Tuesday that the special election is being prepared as an in-person ballot scheduled for Aug. 1. The election is being managed by her office as the county of record for the district. Should a primary be required in the county for the upcoming Kansas election cycle, it would be scheduled for the same day, Vopat noted.

The special election is pursuant to K.S.A. 72-635 governing procedures to disorganize school districts in the state. This special election is unprecedented, as no records have been located confirming that a petition for disorganization by patrons of the school district has ever been filed in Kansas. 

The statute has been utilized in the past by elected school board members to vote to disorganize a school district; however, it is rare.

Wording of the proposition is as follows:

“Shall the following be adopted?

“Shall USD 112 be disorganized pursuant to K.S.A. 72-635 to pursue attachment to another school district or organization of the schools therein in anyway(sic) provided by law?”

A “yes” vote is a vote to dissolve the district. A “no” vote would keep the district intact.

Voting day

Polls will open at 7 a.m. and will close at 7 p.m. on Aug. 1.

Polling places include:

• Lutheran Parish Hall, 209 S. County Road, Holyrood — Holyrood City, Palacky, Valley

• Lorraine City Office, 238 S. Main St., Lorraine — Green Garden, Lincoln, Lorraine City, Thomas

• Wilson Senior Center, 511 25th St., Wilson — Columbia, Noble, Wilson City, Wilson Township, all of Russell County and Lincoln County in USD 112

Immaculate Conception Parish Center, 110 E. Williamson, Claflin — all of Barton County in USD 112

• Bushton Community Building, 301 N. Main St., Bushton — all of Rice County in USD 112.

Registration opens

Registration of voters for the Ellsworth County Election will be open at the County Clerk’s Office from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The last day to register is July 11.

Registered voters are eligible to vote by advance voting ballot upon application to the County Clerk at 210 N. Kansas Ave., Ellsworth, KS 67439. 

In-person advance voting will begin July 12 at the County Clerk’s address.

After the vote

If the proposition passes, the effective date for district disorganization would be July 1, 2024. For the proposition to pass, the statute stipulates that 51% of USD 112 voters would have to cast a “yes” vote. Passing the proposition does not immediately close schools in the district.

The matter would then pass to the state board of education, which would then appoint its own hearing officer to preside over hearings and listen to patrons. The fate of buildings in the district would be decided by the state board, by assigning district buildings and property to other school districts. 

If the proposition fails to pass, statute requires that a subsequent petition to disorganize cannot be attempted until 2025.

Who pays?

Vopat noted that the statute does not specify who would reimburse the county for preparing and conducting the special election. “I’m planning to bill the school district,” she said.

Last day

About 100 community members gathered to watch their students depart Wilson Jr./Sr. High School for the final time Friday on the last day of the school year. The final Class of 2023 graduating class had commencement exercises on May 13.

While the community explored every option including seeking a one-year extension to keep the school open, students and their families will be migrating to neighboring school districts in the fall.

Many will be attending classes in Sylvan Grove, some will be going to Lincoln and others farther away.

In the meantime, the USD 112 school board has been holding a series of special meetings to determine what would happen depending upon the outcome of the vote in August.