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Focus groups formed to help with Menahga School referendum

To find out why a Menahga School referendum failed and where the district went wrong on the planning for an expansion, citizen focus groups were formed last week.

Friday, about 25 people gathered at the Menahga Senior/Community Center, with superintendent Mary Klamm facilitating the session, to suggest ideas on how to solve the space issues at the school.

"This project was voted down, so this project is out the window," Klamm said, referring to the old $8.5 million plan that included an activity center and a three-station gymnasium.

The Friday focus group meeting was the second of three scheduled after school board members decided they will try again with another referendum in the spring.

Among the suggestions of the group, which comprised of mostly senior citizens, were capping open enrollment and merging with the Sebeka School District.

No ideas were off the table at the brainstorming session and shutting down an idea was not an option, Klamm said.

To become compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, some suggested installing a type of passenger elevator system to the basement area.

Other ideas included expanding the multipurpose room, using the senior center and building one classroom per year to accommodate for a growing student population.

Klamm said she will bring the suggestions to the school board that will finalize another proposal.

Why it failed

Participants of the focus group were asked to jot down why they personally thought the project was voted down.

"There are people who are very vocal and others who are quiet," Klamm said. "To make sure that ever single person who attended had a say," the anonymous notes were collected.

She said the most common reasons people said the referendum failed was because it was too big, too costly and the economic times can't support it.

Another reason was more about the information passed around town prior to the election.

"There was a lot of people that didn't know what was going on," said one of the participants Russ Jacob. "A lot of people were misinformed."

The next focus group meeting will take place at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 4 at Menahga School.