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About 150 people attended a community meeting Wednesday night to give input on the future of educating Orchard’s youth.
And if one thing was made clear by those in attendance, the Orchard community not only supports the reorganization with Clearwater, they also support rotating the high school and middle school every two years.
The Clearwater-Orchard high school started in Orchard and was there for two years but is now in its third year at Clearwater. According to information presented at the meeting, the high school will remain in Clearwater "unless there is a significant change in enrollment numbers. . . . A significant change would be where a school has a majority of the high school students for an extended period of time."
"The community meeting was well attended with over 150 people present. The Orchard board was looking for input on what the community feels about the current site locations for the Clearwater-Orchard High School and Middle School. I understand that there was good discussion in the six focus groups that were used to gather thoughts together," said Superintendent Dale Martin.
Held at the Orchard gymnasium and hosted by Orchard’s representatives of Nebraska Unified District and Clearwater-Orchard Public School, the meeting began with background information on the district - from property valuations to census data.
The audience then broke into six focus groups to discuss the pros and cons with various options for Orchard before making a recommendation on how to proceed. Community members representing their groups called the current arrangement of rotating every two years fair to both Orchard and Clearwater.
“One thing that’s happening right now whether people want to admit it or not, is dividing of the communities. One thing that would help not divide the communities is to have things fair,” said the first group. “The communities would get along better. Everyone would see things as being fair, and it would stop the division that is possible to happen.”
The second group stated, “This is the only way that both communities will be able to work together.”
Several groups called their second recommendation a “distant option,” which was dissolving the reorganization and continuing sports and activities together.
"The goal of gathering consensus from the Orchard community was definitely achieved. Hopefully from here, next steps will include further discussion between Orchard and Clearwater board members to identify common interests and to work out any issues that remain," Martin said.
The options were as follows:
Focus Group Recommendations
Those in the audience were asked to vote for their top choices on how the community should move forward based upon the options discussed in the focus groups. Those not in attendance can also vote but must have their ballots turned into the school by noon on Friday.
Results will be tabulated at the next advisory meeting on Monday, Oct. 5, at Clearwater at 8:15 p.m.
A similar meeting may be held at Clearwater. A date has not been set for a possible meeting.
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UPDATE: This story was updated with comments from Superintendent Dale Martin and clarification on school locations.