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GREENFIELD - The Whitnall School District is holding off on a referendum so it can first gain more input from the community.

The district has set a timeline that would tentatively place a referendum on the ballot for the April 2018 election.

"We’re making sure that we’re trying to time it, but yet moving at a pace that’s still showing progression moving forward,” Superintendent Lisa Olson said at a community meeting April 17. “I think we’re at a point where we can start to put dates and start to hone it in a little bit.”

Asking questions

Olson said the district is hoping to determine what the community values in a school system and what the learning needs are in the schools before officials come up with a "solution" to put to referendum.

Whitnall has already taken steps to engage the community, such as through a personalized learning night last fall and a couple "classes" on school finances. Now, they are hoping to engage even more members of the community through a survey to see what people value in terms of education.

“That’s really critical information we need from our community before we can ask how our facilities will support that," said Olson, explaining why the district decided to ask community members about their values instead of specific facilities or possible referendum questions.

The results of the survey will be presented in a community strategic planning meeting on June 15, the first of many meetings and listening sessions the district will conduct to get feedback from the community.

Eventually, the district will send out another survey asking more specifically about facilities and what people may support in a referendum. The goal is to craft a referendum question based on the input the district receives through these surveys and other community meetings.

Other factors

In addition to the community input, the district is also taking into account key factors, including the current state of buildings, changes to curriculum and learning, census data, and various financial factors.

Related:Whitnall looking to add new classes, class structures in schools

For example, the board and leadership team decided that holding a referendum this November would not be as financially advisable as waiting, since the fall election is a special election and would incur extra costs. Olson said staff estimated a special election could cost between $15,000 and $18,000.

If the district sticks to its timeline, it would put a question on the ballot for April 3, 2018. Since the election for governor will also be held that day, it is likely there will be a sizable turnout, especially compared to a November special election.

Information on the upcoming survey is expect to go out in the district's print newsletter next month.

The district is also hosting another community meeting Tuesday, April 25, to discuss personalized learning changes. The meeting is geared toward parents, but anyone in the community is welcome to attend.

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