OSAGE, Okla. — Teachers at Osage Public School teach students from Kindergarten through 8th grade.
It’s a rural school and some people like that independence and agricultural environment.
But the Osage Public School is working with less money from the state because of lower enrollment.
Dr. Lisa Muller is the superintendent for both the Osage Public School and Pryor Public Schools while administrators await the voters’ decision at Tuesday’s election on whether or not to annex Osage Public School with Pryor Public Schools.
She said, because of low enrollment, she anticipates the school will lose its state funding soon if it is not annexed into Pryor’s district.
“Since 2019-2020, the state aid is $160,000 a year less than it was at that time,” Muller says, “So it has dropped off pretty substantially and it is challenging to continue operations with such a small enrollment.”
Several factors play into that drop in enrollment, she said, disruptions in education caused by COVID and the transfer of students to Pryor – although she admits, some students have transferred from Pryor to Osage as well.
In the 2019-2020 school year, 145 students were enrolled in Osage Public School. In 2020 to 2021, enrollment dropped to 143 students. In 2021-2022, student enrollment dropped to 140 students.
This current academic year, student enrollment dropped to 118 students. That number was as high as 272 in the 2008-2009 academic year.
In the last three years, the school has lost 19 teachers and 21 support staff.
The annexation, Muller said, would allow them to pay higher compensation for teachers.
”Currently, PE is the only special offered here,” she said. “We offer art, music and STEM education specials, technology specials at Pryor. So they’re more opportunities.”
She said there is more support for behavioral intervention, counseling, and mental health resources, as well.
But, not everyone agrees this is the right thing to do.
For one thing, taxes would go up for Osage property owners.
Muller said, at current enrollment levels, it would likely be three years before the state could force annexation or consolidation with another school district.
Patricia Moffett is a candidate for the Osage School Board election in April, should voters fail to approve the annexation.
”If we have the time, I would rather take it,” Moffett said. “Once this is consolidated, once this is annexed, it’s done and we will have no real representation on the board for at least five years because the ward that we would be assigned to won’t come up for a vote for another five years.”
Moffett wants to give the Osage Public School more time to rebuild its enrollment numbers.
If the voters pass the annexation of the school, then it would be annexed into Pryor Public Schools beginning the next school year.
If voters fail to pass the annexation, Muller said the district will have to adjust expenditures to the available budget, which would mean reducing staff and combining classrooms.
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