Medora residents experienced a variety of emotions when the community’s school corporation announced a general fund budget reduction plan in the spring.
Alumni know the value of the education they received at the small southwestern Jackson County school.
Parents said they were concerned about how the budget cuts could affect their children.
Story continues below gallery
Students were afraid they might have to transfer schools.
But during a public meeting in mid-May, conducted by school board President Joe Campbell and Superintendent Roger Bane, all of the facts were laid out for the community.
That eased some residents’ minds, and it also spurred some to ask what they could do to help the state’s second-smallest public school corporation.
One of them who sprung to action was Tina Bowers, a 1993 Medora High School graduate who has lived in the community since she was 5.
She has organized a “Save Medora Schools” fundraising event, set for 2 to 9 p.m. Saturday along Main Street in Medora.
The fundraiser will feature a double-elimination beanbag toss tournament, a 50/50 raffle, a dunk tank, a silent auction, children’s games and a bounce house. Also, a bake sale will be conducted and food and drinks will be available for purchase inside the air-conditioned senior citizens center, and a disc jockey will play music from 7 to 9 p.m.
“A lot of people were saying things we needed to do, and nobody was really doing anything,” Bowers said. “At least we can say we tried. We are trying to do our part to maybe change it a little.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, Bowers said three teams had committed to participate in the beanbag toss tournament. The cost is $20 per team, and signups are accepted by calling 812-528-7181 or sending a message via facebook.com/SaveTheHornets. Signups will be accepted the day of the event, too.
As far as donations for the bake sale and silent auction and prizes during the fundraiser, Bowers said the response has been “overwhelming.”
She has taken fliers to businesses in the area, and many have donated items or money. Individuals also have stepped up to help.
“Our neighboring towns have been really supportive. You couldn’t ask for more support, really, from your neighbors,” she said. “A lot of people from other towns went to school here or know somebody that did. Because of our area, a lot of people grew up in small towns. Nobody wants to see a school close.”
When Bowers was in high school in the early 1990s, she said she remembers talk going around town about the school closing, but it never happened.
But when the news came out in the spring about cuts involving teachers and programs because of an expected drop in enrollment and funding, she was afraid it would result in the school closing this time.
During the April school board meeting, Bane announced the general fund reduction plan and said unless enrollment increases, the corporation would have to cut about $258,000 from its general fund budget for the 2016-17 school year.
Medora’s approved general fund budget for 2016 is $1,874,157. If the budget reduction plan is enacted, that would cut the corporation’s general fund by 14 percent.
Bane said if the corporation can maintain an average daily membership, or student count, of 214 students with the approved budget cuts and current costs remain steady, the school can stay open at least eight more years.
With an ADM of 220 students or more and maintaining a cash balance of $250,000-plus, the school can stay open indefinitely, he said.
The ADM in May was 229, but Bane estimated it to be 214 in September.
Student counts are conducted in September and February each school year, and schools receive funding based on those numbers. That money goes into the general fund, which pays for employees’ salaries and benefits, day-to-day operations and maintenance.
The corporation received $6,315.79 per student in 2014-15 but dropped to $6,197.57 this year because of a change in the state funding formula. It’s projected to be back above $6,300 in 2017.
In recent years, 40 students who live in Carr Township have transferred from Medora to other local schools. Bane said he thinks the main reason is because other schools have more athletics offerings.
One of Bowers’ daughters is involved in sports at the school, and she was worried she wouldn’t be able to have that option with the budget cuts.
Their other daughter will be in a combined class — two grades in one room — this coming school year. That’s a part of the budget reduction plan.
“My husband and I both grew up here, it’s where we met, it’s where our kids were born and it’s where we’re raising them still,” Bowers said. “We don’t want them to commute every day to another school. We like the small school, and we like the fact that Medora has it.”
Bowers said Medora is a good school for her children because she is familiar with their classmates and teachers.
“Some of (the teachers) taught me, and I knew that they would be in good hands,” she said. “The comfort in that, it means so much more to me than going to a large school and not being sure if they know everybody. Communication gives it more of a family feel, and I think it’s important to have that bond.”
Bane set up an online GoFundMe account to try to raise $114,000 to keep the technology education and family consumer science programs at the school. That account, however, no longer is active, and the goal wasn’t reached.
Bowers said at least one other event has been conducted to raise money for the school, and a couple of local committees have raised money.
With Saturday’s event, Bowers said she hasn’t set a fundraising goal. All money raised will go into an account at State Bank of Medora for the school.
“Absolutely anything we can get, we feel good about,” she said.
What: “Save Medora Schools” fundraising event
When: 2 to 9 p.m. Saturday
Where: Main Street in Medora
Features: Double-elimination bean-bag toss tournament ($20 per team; register by calling 812-528-7181 or sending a message via facebook.com/SaveTheHornets; signups also will be accepted the day of the event), 50/50 raffle, dunk tank, silent auction, children’s games, bounce house, bake sale, food and drinks, disc jockey from 7 to 9 p.m.