Rumors swirling about consolidation



News-Herald Staff Writer

HOPEDALE – Fiscal troubles are sparking speculation of further consolidation within Harrison Hills City Schools and the public could know more this week.

The News-Herald was contacted by a concerned citizen regarding reported closures of schools and further changes. Unconfirmed reports are circulating that Harrison Lakeland and Jewett Elementary schools could close, while the junior and senior high would be combined.

Jewett Council members on Tuesday discussed a meeting with Superintendent George Ash and indicated the closure was likely amid financial woes. Village leaders commented it could hurt the town . District officials have not responded but a public meeting was scheduled for this week to give an explanation.

School board member Melvin Allen told the media Harrison Hills was facing a $1.2 million deficit this year and a drop in enrollment was costing the district a lot of money. Allen added that 225 students chose open enrollment and left the district, costing $6,000 thus far.

For the most part, district leaders have made little comment, but a special board work session was scheduled at 7 p.m. on Sunday followed by meetings with staff and residents on May 10. A press conference was set for Monday with a community meeting at 6 p.m. that evening in the Harrison Central High School auditorium. According to flyers circulated to parents, the gathering will include a question-and-answer session. In addition, the school board set a meeting for May 13 at 7 p.m. in the high school auditorium.

“The Harrison Hills City School District is in the midst of reviewing findings from an assessment we requested by the state,” Superintendent George Ash said in a media statement. “We are not prepared to make a comment at this time. Further details will be presented to the public during the meeting on Monday.”

The assessment refers to a review leaders sought in February when officials were looking at losing millions of dollars over the next few years due to the elimination of tangible property taxes and other revenue, plus increased costs. The district had received a request for a written proposal from the state Office of School Funding and Fiscal Support Service and a strategy had to be submitted in January on how Harrison Hills would attack the funding issue. According to the latest five-year forecast approved at the April session, there is a fiscal deficit that will steadily climb in the next few years. If the forecast holds true, the district will face deficit of nearly $1.43 million in FY11 that would increase to more than $14.7 million in FY14.

Ash previously said the district could not implement a plan without having all options and facts available, and leaders sought assistance from the State Department of Education to collect data and recommendations on how to save money. The review involved four components: transportation, staffing, food and nutrition and a district performance audit.

Officials said transportation played a large role in the district since it covered 400 square miles, while a staffing analysis would determine the district’s needs. Another major area was food and nutrition to ensure proper meals for all students, most notably because that area was carrying a $200,000 deficit. Last year, expenses exceeded revenue by $1.6 million but were decreased to $900,000.


  1. I just don’t understand why it is always the school in the freeport area that get closed…witht the first consolidation the only schools closed where in this area…now once again the same thing. Why can’t kids from Cadiz be bused to Lakeland?? Westgate is so full now they have portable classrooms…so where will they put the students from Lakeland and Jewett?? Doesn’t make any sence at all to me….

  2. Consolidation will not fix these “budget woes.” Your main source of deficit is because of transportation and food? Do you think consolidation will make the routes any less far or making any less amount of students to feed? Please. That is absolute craziness.

  3. ha ha finally we can see what these misguided ***** have done to our county, absolutely no industry base, and broke beyond belief

  4. right on…..this county has no industry. no tax base.. Oh well… bring on the minimum wage jobs along with more fast food employers. Glad I left years ago…

  5. I am so sad to see this happen yet again to Jewett and Freeport. Those communities will be devastated to lose their schools yet again. I don’t think you’ve seen anything yet- as quickly as you will see people running to neighboring school districts. A great deal more of additional money will be lost to open enrollment- guaranteed. Restructure the district and allow neighboring school districts to absorb the Freeport area and Jewett area of Harrison Hills. The best plan of action would have been a centralized school in the middle of the district, since that can’t happen- just dissolve it and get it over with. It’s what will eventually happen anyway.

  6. Maybe if all you morons would have passed the levy 11 years ago you wouldn’t have to bus your kids all over gods creation.its your own faults so stop whinning!!!!!!

  7. I agree with Joe and Frank……. stop complaining and do something either vote for the levy, leave the school district or re-elect school board. complaining will not get anything done!

  8. Probably the inevitable ending to the school system where I spent the first six grades and would have gone on to high school….if Powhattan hadn’t been on track to cease mining coal which sent us to Beverly in Washington County and the newly established ,consolidated school district called Fort Frye. In 2010, the location of two bickering villages, one Beverly and the other Waterford, the location of the Wolf Creek School System and both high schools less than three miles apart. Two complete administrations, no shared classes or resources and both communities probably heading to a slightly more populated version of Jewett or Hopedale or about anywhere else in Harrison County.
    I’d be very sorry to think about that Jewett School building closing; not surprised but sorry that a place where I had so many great memories might end up as a closed and potentially abandoned building.

  9. How do we know this is even true? We have seen so many rumors started out there and reported without so much as a factual check with real officials.

  10. If you haven’t realize yet this is another form of blackmail for the people of Freeport and Jewett vote for it or lose it. Dollar and cent wise it would be prudent to close Freeport and Jewett. The Jewett School should have been closed after it flooded twice and developed mold. Freeport cost dollars 49 students and 14 teachers it would be more cost efficient to send the students to Calymont much closer . The school Board could save many dollars by just looking and the salaries paid the administrators and office staff.

  11. Let’s just relieve the current board, revisit all the facts on the alleged deficit, hold town meetings, add our assets, re-elect educated open minded board members that have a residence & school aged children in our district, then see if we can’t come up with a better solution than closing some schools or a 9 mil levy this fall.

    There is NO LEADERSHIP IN OUR COUNTY !! Hasn’t been for years!

    It is up to each and every one of us to re-elect GOOD LEADERSHIP if we truly want things to change !


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