Prairie Valley holds hearing on sharing plan

GOWRIE – Prairie Valley Community School District held its last public meeting Tuesday for its whole-grade and activity sharing agreement proposals with Southeast Webster Grand Community School District.

Lois Irwin, Prairie Valley superintendent, explained to the more than 20 attending the benefits of sharing for the district.

“School districts share for a variety of reasons,” Irwin said. “Economic, population patterns, finances, expectations. The bottom line is for the benefit of the students we’re serving.”

According to Irwin, there would be more consistent academic standards and benchmarks across the two districts.

“The transition from elementary to middle school is more successful in a system where there’s consistent academic standards,” she said.

With more classes and class sections, students will have more options, as well, Irwin said.

“We think there will be more offerings outside of the classroom, extracurricular, that we’ve talked about at previous meetings, but we’ll be adding, combining what both districts have,” she said. “Students have talked about how they can connect with more students who have the same interests. And we hope we can compete athletically as a team instead of how we have been.”

Added courses for Prairie Valley would include speech, algebra, physical science, biology and U.S. and world history. There would also be more college credit courses available.

“We figured up at the last board meeting that there were probably 70-some offerings,” Irwin said.

Irwin explained the elementary schools would stay the same, but there would be one shared middle school in Burnside and a shared high school in Gowrie. Neither district would have to change its staffing.

“All staff will remain the same,” Irwin said. “Their location may not remain the same.”

Sharing would have a positive impact on the district, Irwin said.

“We expect there will be a decline in our rural counties, which affects both districts. A stronger system may bring students from neighboring districts, and it’s more attractive in retaining and attracting educators,” she said.

There would also be consequences if the district didn’t share, Irwin said.

“We’ve talked about, several times, right now we have students and teachers going between two buildings. That’s not very conducive to a stress-free day,” she said. “We would either need to pick up the cost that Southeast Webster are giving us, or continue to cut.”

The contract between Prairie Valley and Southeast Webster Grand would last five years, but items could be changed during the time through mutual agreement. Both district could also agree to dissolve the agreement.

The Prairie Valley board will vote on the agreement Jan. 21, and Southeast Webster Grand will vote on it Jan. 22.

Southeast Webster Grand will have a final public hearing on the agreement Wednesday at 6 p.m. at its middle school in Boxholm.