Prairie Valley OK’s whole-grade sharing

GOWRIE – The Prairie Valley Community School District board voted unanimously to approve whole-grade sharing and activities sharing contracts with Southeast Webster Grand Community School District.

Through the contract, each district will keep its elementary school, but would share a single middle school in Burnside and a single high school in Gowrie. Activities costs would be split 50-50 between the districts.

The meeting was attended by more than 30 parents, staff members and students.

Board member Joe Harrison said during the yearlong discussion he was affected by the stories told by SWG staff.

“The thing that really struck my nerves and my heart was when the Southeast math teacher stood up and she was talking about preparing for five classes, not having time. It almost brought her to tears, she was so frustrated,” he said. “She was so passionate about teaching those kids math.”

He added, “I honestly believe this whole grade sharing program will hopefully alleviate that problem, so teachers can be teachers.”

Board member John Field said he had concerns with the way the whole-grade sharing contract is structured.

“What really needs to be looked at, the real long-term money savings is a merger,” Field said. ” It depends on how that merger is structured. I would seriously encourage you to look at merging, and put together a team or committee that would study what that cost would be.”

Field also suggested consolidation in the future.

“Where the big savings would be, put together another committee, that would look at only one building,” he said. “Operating out of five centers is just a nightmare.”

Board member Brian Holmgaard acknowledged the concerns of the SWG community regarding their facility in Boxholm.

“I know we realize it’s a good deal. I think the main concern there is closing the school,” he said. “They’re more worried about closing that school than an opportunity for the kids, in my opinion.”

The activities contract was not discussed.

Board member Heidi McGuire motioned to approve both contracts for the 2014-15 school year, and was seconded by Harrison. The board voted 7-0 to approve both contracts.

Dennis Tucker of Gowrie applauded the board members for their efforts.

“We want to thank the students, the administration and the school board for taking the driver’s seat and being very positive and going with this, which is best for our kids and their kids,” he said. “I pat you on the back for sticking with it.”

Lois Irwin, PVCSD superintendent, said after the meeting the board’s approval of the contracts was exciting.

“It just went so quickly,” she said. “Just to have a 7-0 was almost overwhelming. We’re excited, and ready to move forward.”

The Southeast Webster Grand Community School District board will vote on its whole-grade sharing and activities contracts today at 6:30 p.m., at SWG High School in Burnside.