Clarion-Goldfield seeks merger with Dows

CLARION – The Clarion-Goldfield and Dows community school districts will merge next year if residents approve in a vote Tuesday.

If the reorganization passes, all students will attend school in Clarion in the 2014-2015 school year, said Bob Olson, superintendent of both districts.

The districts have been in a sharing agreement for the last nine years, he said. This year, all students grades 4 to 12 went to Clarion, while Dows had its own preschool through third-grade classes.

“Most of the students are going over there (to Clarion) now,” Olson said.

The districts are in the ninth year of a 10-year agreement.

“Even though we cut it short by one year, we wanted to take advantage of the incentive,” said Olson. “This is the last year for it, but there is reorganization incentive funding that the school is eligible for. Three years after reorganization the district would receive about a quarter million dollars each year.”

The most compelling reason to merge, he said, was that “revenue in Dows is not meeting the expenses; we’re losing money each year. Eventually that has to come to a halt.”

The voting locations on Tuesday will be the Wright County Courthouse for Clarion-Goldfield residents, and the Dows Community Building for Dows residents.

A simple majority is needed to move forward on consolidation, Olson said.

When the districts first entered into the agreement in 2005, grades seven through 12 were sent to Clarion. The next year grade six was also merged. Last year was the first time fourth and fifth grades were moved to Clarion, he said.

“We did that primarily because we wanted to make sure we had placeholders for staff in both districts,” he said. “We took four teachers that are under contract with the Dows school district, and they’re teaching in Clarion-Goldfield. Should the reorganization be successful, they would have teaching jobs.”

Last year, the Clarion-Goldfield district had 800 students in kindergarten through 12th grade, and the Dows district had about 124. Numbers were not available for this year.

The Dows district is in Wright and Franklin counties, while Clarion-Goldfield is in Wright, Humboldt and Hancock. If merged, Olson said the two districts would cover about 350 square miles.