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Redfield council meets to discuss options on school


REDFIELD — Three members of the Redfield City Council called a special council meeting Tuesday evening to examine the city’s role in keeping Redfield Middle School open, including the use of municipal funds for any legal action.
Glen Flemmons, freshman Ward 1 alderman, said he initiated the call for the meeting.
“I feel like we are running out of time,” he explained.
He was joined by a second freshman alderman, Larry O’Briant, Ward 2 representative, and Darrell Hedden in the call, which requires three of the six council members to initiate the action.
Representatives of the Keep Redfield Middle School Task Force asked Redfield residents Jan. 17 for support and direction on keeping the school open. The White Hall School Board voted 4-2 Jan. 8 to close the Redfield school at the end of the current school year.
Todd Dobbins, chairman of the task force, and others detailed the options available to Redfield patrons during the Jan. 17 meeting at the American Legion Post 343.
Flemmons and Hedden indicated they are not sure if the municipality has a “legal standing” in the school board’s decision. O’Briant was not immediately available for comment.
“The task force has done a great job and didn’t know what to do,” Flemmons added.
Hedden said he was disappointed the task force did not hire an attorney early in the quest to keep the middle school open. A plan of action is also a requirement and emotions can’t overrule legal and political action, he said.
Hedden said he agreed to sign the call for the meeting because “I want to see what options the city has” before Redfield students are bused to White Hall Middle School.
He told the Redfield council Jan. 15 that if the middle school is closed, the community expects the White Hall district to turn the building over to the municipality for use by local residents “with no strings attached.”
If the White Hall board fails to comply, Hedden added, he would ask the council to adopt an ordinance declaring the structure a nuisance and order the district to demolish the structure, constructed in 1939.
The options studied by the task force include establishing an open-enrollment charter school; home schooling; and seeking state authorization for the former Redfield School District to withdraw from the 1950 merger with the White Hall district.
Opening a charter school and seeking a court order to reverse the closure of the Redfield school would prove costly and time-consuming, Dobbins has warned residents at a public meeting.
“The White Hall School Board will put up a fight,” Dobbins added.
Facts were misrepresented to both White Hall and Redfield school patrons in recent years in an orchestrated plan to close the middle school and eventually Hardin Elementary School in Redfield, Dobbins contends.
The annual potential savings on personnel and operating costs by closing Redfield Middle School range from $382,000 to $412,000, White Hall School District Superintendent Larry Smith has estimated. The district faces a number of economic issues, so the projected savings have increased in importance, he said.
The White Hall district has lost more than $1 million in state funding in the past six years because of declining enrollment, part of the basis for Smith’s recommendation.