CONSULTANT: LOYAL AND GREENWOOD SHOULD CONSOLIDATE
Tuesday, July 11th, 2006 -- 8:50 am
Posted by Riley Hebert-News Director
The Greenwood and Loyal school districts should consolidate soon, or risk devastation by declining enrollments – that was the blunt recommendation unveiled Monday night by a Minnesota-based consultant hired jointly by the neighboring districts.
In front of both school boards and a Loyal Gymnasium packed with curious onlookers, Dr. Roger Worner used transparencies to present a condensed version of the 114 pg. “Joint Organizational Analysis Study” he was hired to conduct several months ago.
The Twin Cities-based administrator says he’s performed similar studies for hundreds of districts and broke the study down into six chapters, ranging from “demographics” to “finances” to “facilities”.
In a nutshell, Worner noted consolidation had already hit Greenwood hard over the past decade, but their enrollment projections have stabilized; Loyal, on the other hand, was largely unaffected by declining enrollment over the past decade, but is projected to take a huge hit in the coming decade.
Declining enrollment, Worner said, was the “wolf at the door” for both districts. He advised no amount of passed referenda would make the problem go away.
Under Worner’s 7-point recommendation, the high school of the consolidated district would be located in Loyal, the Jr. High in Greenwood and each town would maintain an elementary building.
The consolidated district would move as quickly as possible to sell the existing Greenwood Elementary building.
Worner recommends the districts work as quickly as possible by first selecting a joint Task Force to review the study and make recommendations, propose consolidation by the Summer of 2007, with the first consolidated school year being 2008-2009.
After the meeting, Greenwood board president Sharon Rogers called the study “thorough”, but hesitated to guarantee her board would abide by its findings.
“I think we’re going to abide by what the Task Force recommends, and that has yet to be seen yet. 24 people will be doing an awful lot of work in the next few months,” Rogers said.
When asked, Rogers said she didn’t think the Task Force would return recommendations that contradicted the study. “I wouldn’t think so. I think an unbiased third party is the probably the best recommendation… but you can never tell what comes out of a Task Force.”
Loyal board president Chuck Rueth said the future remains somewhat uncertain, but he believes his board was ready to abide by the study.
“Everybody is going to have a little problem here or there, but we’ll be able to iron out the differences. We’ll see in a year where it all lies out,” Rueth said.
Perhaps the biggest point of interest for those in attendance was Worner’s recommendation that the high school be in Loyal, even though his study found Greenwood’s facilities were more modern.
“Loyal is the larger district and has the largest critical mass of students,” Worner explained after the meeting. “It is a more central location and has tended to draw more students from Greenwood, than Greenwood has drawn from Loyal.”
Although, after looking at the data, Worner feels consolidation is the obvious choice for the two districts, he acknowledges it is always a tough sell with often very loyal residents.
“It’s very hard. It requires a lot of people saying the bottom-line is programs and services for our young people,” Worner says.
“That’s what drives this issue and we set aside whatever past ill feeling we might have, or competitive vents we might have, and say ‘it’s all about kids’.”
The 24-member Task Force will be first meet in late August.
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