Written by Samantha Stanich
The Froid School District filed a petition to expand their districts’ boundaries, a move that the Poplar School District is against because it cuts into their territory. Currently, Froid has some of the property annexed to its high school district and Poplar has the same area annexed to its elementary district.
The petition will transfer territory that is already annexed to the Froid High School District and make it fall under Froid’s elementary school district.
The petition states, “The proposed transfer of territory is in the best interest of the children in the subject area,” and notes that the transfer would positively benefit the school and contribute to efficient and effective operation of public education in the area.
Froid School superintendent Roger E. Britton stated that parents approached the school board and asked them to file the petition because they are tired of the school transportation being cumbersome within the school district. The burden on Froid Public Schools is that they can use school transportation to pick up their high school students on that land, but not their elementary students.
The Froid High School District currently includes some of the same land they are petitioning to annex. The school cannot transport elementary students who live in that area unless there is a child in the household who attends Froid High School. The statute reads that the school must pick the elementary student up on the county road, which is often a safety hazard. If the Froid district included the land proposed to be annexed, the bus would be able to go to the student’s driveway making it more convenient as well as safer.
Though the change, if granted, would cut a chunk of land and students out of Poplar’s school district, these are students who currently attend Froid Schools and have been attending there for years. It consists of families who have had multiple children attend Froid Schools while living in the Poplar district, so the issue at hand is not about taking away students from the Poplar schools. The parents of the children have had no intention in enrolling their children in Poplar and want to continue educating them at Froid schools.
Britton and the Froid school system said that Poplar Schools claim that the issue at hand is a potential monetary loss. These claims have been proven true for Poplar School board member Denver Atkinson, who was quoted in the Fort Peck Journal as stating that the approval of the petition could take away from Poplar’s shrinking tax base, meaning less money for the school. Atkinson was quoted saying that the Froid School needs to stop picking up children on the northeast side of the reservation because it is illegal. Other districts don’t tolerate buses from other schools coming onto their territory and taking their students, Atkinson said, and Poplar should do everything they can to stop this, even using police to keep them out.
According to Roosevelt County Superintendent of Schools Pat Stennes, the parents who live in the proposed annexation area want to be able to vote on Froid School issues, but are currently unable to because they don’t live in the Froid district even though it is where their children attend school.
The parents who live in the proposed annexed area initiated the petition and brought it to the Froid School board who then approved the petition. An attorney from Billings was then hired to attend to the legal part of the issue.
Stennes stated that Poplar’s frustration should come from the taking of real estate not the taking of students because that is not happening. It is the students’ and parents’ choice to go to school in Froid and it is inconvenient that they live in the Poplar School District.
This has been an ongoing issue between the schools and an upcoming hearing will set the tone. A final date for the hearing has yet to be set.