Future Unclear For Omaha School

The future of an Omaha grade school is unclear today after learning that 20 percent of it's funding will be cut next school year. And even though the Underwood Hills Focus School is popular with parents, next year some of those parents will be forced to put their kids into other schools.

Underwood Hills is not your typical elementary school. A bigger focus on technology and leadership, as well as a longer school day are just some of the reasons parents choose to send their children here.

Michelle Lundy's son is in fifth grade at the school which sits at 90th and Western.

"The after school program, or extended day has been a big benefit," says Lundy. "He's currently able to speak three languages. He's taken self defense, or tae kwon do."

But next year Lundy's son won't be going to school here. And it's all due to funding. This focus school is supported by three districts: Omaha Public Schools, District 66, and Elkhorn.

But next year Elkhorn is pulling out. And since Lundy lives in the Elkhorn school district, her son will be headed back to Elkhorn schools.

Lundy says, "Elkhorn was a great school. But the experience we've had here at Underwood Hills and with the focus school, really we saw a big change in our son."

The principal at Underwood Hills says Elkhorn is just trying to balance the budget.

"It's unfortunate that they pulled out," says principal Bret Anderson. "And of course a lot of that is because the up coming state aid is going to be gone. So the districts are trying to figure out how they're going to make these budget cuts. And this was an area right now that they could cut."

Because the school is funded by more than one district, it's not eligible for funds from the Learning Community. Anderson hopes the Nebraska Legislature can change that next session.

"Our school has really generated real solid curriculum. And we're starting to see that in some of the academics," Anderson said. "And their scores are going up. And the kids are doing real well. Things are working real well. It's unfortunate that it comes down to money."

The superintendents of OPS and District 66 are evaluating the focus school's funding situation next year.

If state law is changed to allow Underwood Hills to receive funding from the Learning Community, that would also open up the school to students from across Douglas and Sarpy counties.

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