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Olustee and Eldorado school districts combining

(Source KSWO) (Source KSWO)

OLUSTEE, OK (KSWO) - Low enrollment and budget cuts are forcing two small Oklahoma school districts to combine.

Starting in the 2017-18 school year, the Olustee and Eldorado Public School districts will merge into one district, rebranded as Olustee-Eldorado Public Schools.

"It's all about the children. We wanted to maintain the small school status,” said Olustee Superintendent Gaylene Freeman.

Freeman said the discussion to consolidate began two years ago.

"With the financial decrease of our budget and with the initial enrollment decrease as well, we thought this would be the best time to get together and try to make a go at it as one district instead of two single ones,” Freeman said.

So starting next school year, former Eldorado students will take a 15 minute bus ride to Olustee. But that doesn't mean their old school building is going away.

"I know what happens to a community when the school leaves,” Freeman said. “We have made it a priority to keep the Eldorado gym in good shape, keep it open, try to have a few ball games over that way."

Freeman anticipates an enrollment increase of 50 to 60 students, but said because of Olustee's declining enrollment, there shouldn't be any problems with overcrowding.

"We think we are going to be fine as far as the space, there is a thought that we might add a mobile building or two outside since we're getting a couple of programs, we're hoping to get the vo-ag program started over here,” Freeman said.

As far as staff is concerned, Freeman said she will try to bring as many teachers from Eldorado as possible onto her staff at the new combined school district.

"The sad thing about it is I would love to have everybody at both schools to have a job but it's just fiscally not possible to do that,” Freeman said. “But we are offering the state department severance pay to those who do not get the job but by and large a great number of the Eldorado teachers will have a job over here."

Within the next month a contest will be held to get the students and community members involved in picking a new mascot for the new combined school district.

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