Krystle Koch of Fort Riley has thrown her name in the ring for a position on the USD 475 Board of Education.

She said she chose to run for school board because she wants to be involved with the district.

“Just in my time here, I’ve seen a few different issues within the school district that are concerning to me and it just kind of compelled me to want to see if I could help change them,” Koch said. “This area kind of reminds me of where I grew up — in the small town community and everything — and so I just feel kind of like — even though I’m a military spouse and whatnot — I instantly felt a connection to this area.”

Koch said talk of school closures last year was one issue that spurred her to run for office.

Last year, the district entertained the thought of closing two school buildings — Franklin Elementary School and Grandview Elementary School — before ultimately deciding against it. This school year, however, though the building will remain open, Franklin Elementary Students will not return to their school as students and staff from the building are moved to other schools in the district.

“I became really passionate about it,” she said. “I went on a campaign to try to get information out about the different reasons that they were saying they were closing — with the heavily impacted aid and things like that — to make sure that the community was informed about what was actually going on.”

Koch said she believed incorrect information was being put out into the community about military impact aid.

“It just really impassioned me to want to keep trying to make those changes and (keep) the communication with the community and everything open like I feel like it should be,” she said.

Issues that are “near and dear” to Koch’s heart include special education, mental health, poverty and overcrowding in schools.

“A lot of the issues that a lot of the community have with the school district in general are things that I’m incredibly passionate about anyway,” she said. “That’s why I’ve been trying to spend a lot of my time working with different organizations that echo what my concerns are and what I hope to help with the community.”

Koch said community members encouraged her to run for school board.

She knows there will be challenges because she is not originally from Junction City. Koch said she has been trying to meet community members and build connections, volunteering with the local United Way and trying to be helpful.

If elected, she plans to try to improve communication between Fort Riley and the Junction City/Geary County community.

“There is a big disconnect between the military base and the surrounding area,” she said. “It kind of breaks my heart because I feel like all of Geary County, Milford, Junction City, Grandview Plaza and Fort Riley — all of us have so much to offer each other. But for some reason, there’s just this disconnect between them and if there’s one thing that I’ve always been really good at, it’s just going out there and meeting with people, building communities. I’m an extremely transparent person as far as my beliefs — sharing information. (I’m) open to talking to people. And so I would really love to take the time to really build those connections back and really focus on the issues that affect the entire community — not just one particular group.”

Koch said she has spent her campaign meeting with community members and different groups, trying to find out what they need from the district and what changes they would like to see.

“I just really look forward to putting those things into play and bridging those gaps and making sure that everybody actually feels like they matter and have a voice and the changes will benefit everybody and not just any one particular group or another,” she said.

Koch said there was a possibility she might have to leave the community at some point during her term because she is a military spouse. She does not know when that might be, just that it’s possible.

This did factor into her choice to run, she said.

After community members told her to file for election anyway, she decided to run.

Koch has two children in the USD 475 school system, including a child going into fifth grade at Seitz Elementary School and a child who will begin kindergarten this semester.

She invites people to seek her out if they want to talk to her about their issues or to ask questions.

“I just really would love to meet as many people and really find out what the concerns are with people and really just be a voice for people,” she said. “One thing that I’ve noticed a lot in speaking with people in the community is that there’s a lot of people that want to speak out or that have issues, but don’t feel that they have a voice in the community or they don’t feel that their voice would be heard even if they do speak out and I just — I’ve always been loud.”

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