By Jerome Tharaud/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
A North Harlem school district is interested in bringing the East End Hutterite Colony School into the district if Havre Public Schools will sign an agreement releasing East End, an administrator from the district said.
"We've got declining enrollment and it would be to our advantage to have more students," said Eli Hofer, administrator for North Harlem Colony School, the only school in North Harlem School District 6. Hofer attended the Havre school board meeting Tuesday night, where East End Colony School administrator Joe Waldner asked the board to again consider releasing the East End school from the Havre district.
"What I'm here for is, we asked to have Havre Public Schools consider releasing us from this district," Waldner told the board. He said he made the request in a letter sent to HPS Superintendent Kirk Miller about two weeks ago.
The board declined to consider the request Tuesday night, citing state laws that prevent the board from taking action on any matters not on the agenda.
Miller's written response to Waldner's letter said the board will not take up the matter until Waldner can provide an interlocal agreement with another school district that would allow that district to provide services for a school outside its boundaries.
Waldner said the last time the colony school petitioned to be allowed to leave the Havre district was in November 1996, when it asked to be released to the Cottonwood school district. East End provided the interlocal agreement, but the school board denied its request, he said.
Since then, East End Colony has petitioned the district several times to make the colony school a public school, most recently in March.
At that time the board voted 5-0 to deny East End's request, citing the cost to the district.
At a meeting with OPI on another matter on Aug. 28, East End brought up the possibility of a public school at the colony and a release from HPS but OPI would not discuss the issue.
State Deputy Superintendent of Schools Spencer Sartorius later said the decision to grant East End Colony a public school rests with the local school district, not with OPI.
Hofer said after Tuesday's meeting that his district would like to do a study to see what bringing East End Colony School into its district would entail.
He said he wants to make sure East End could guarantee it would meet the requirements of No Child Left Behind, President Bush's education policy, including a librarian, a counselor and a special education program.
"It's a lot of work for a district to do that," Hofer said. "We'd like to work with them," he added, and said that East End has assured him it will do whatever the district demands.
Hofer also said there are problems with interlocal agreements between schools in two different counties that would have to be worked out, like employees' retirement plans.
If East End is released, the school will still remain at East End, Hofer said.
Hofer said many Hutterite colonies in the state have made similar agreements.
"They're doing it in a lot of districts here in Montana," he said.