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Newcomers sworn in; Prescott meeting set

Newly seated Missoula school trustees made it official Wednesday: They will reconsider the decision to close Prescott School in the Rattlesnake.

At the end of an hourlong meeting, new board member David Merrill asked for a special meeting next week to rescind the decision to close Prescott. Board members will gather in the MCPS business building at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 24, to reconsider keeping Prescott open.

They also will reconsider their plans to build modular classrooms at Mount Jumbo School in East Missoula, where Prescott's fourth- and fifth-graders were to go, starting this fall.

Public discussion will be invited, said Michael Sehestedt, Missoula deputy county attorney, who commented that the decision could be reversed with a simple majority vote of the board.

"The decision to close a school is enormous," said Merrill after the meeting. "When you do that it tears at the social fabric of the neighborhood. This is such a tremendously consequential decision for the school board and the community to make. I think it deserves careful scrutiny."

Merrill's request to reopen the Prescott closure came after a quick and quiet changing of the guard for the Missoula County Public Schools Board of Trustees.

Board members honored out-going board members Jan Guffin and Mike Kupilik, thanking them for their service and giving them the traditional parting gift of a golden brass apple engraved with words of appreciation.

Then it was handshakes all around, a few hugs - and Guffin and Kupilik left. The new board got to work.

Among its first duties was the swearing in of Merrill and Colleen Rogers, elected earlier this month, and re-seating trustee Suzette Dussault. All three promised to support, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States and of the State of Montana, and to discharge their duties with fidelity.

Then it was on to electing a new chair, a position long held by Kuplik.

With a 6-5 vote, Jenda Cummings, who was nominated by trustee Joyce Easter, beat out Barb Seekins, nominated by trustee Debra Sears.

Board members who backed Cummings included James Sadler, Rosemary Harrison, Drake Lemm, William Parker, Cummings and Easter.

"It's daunting," said Cummings after the meeting. "Mike's shoes are going to be difficult to fill. It will take all 11 of us working together to do the job."

Seekins was then elected vice chairwoman of the elementary board, and Sadler vice chairman of the high school board.

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