Editorial: Consolidations a symptom of school troubles

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 12, 2002

The fragile state of education within Minnesota is again brought to the forefront with the recent news that six school districts, faced with declining enrollment, are considering consolidation.

Officials of the school districts &045; Russell, Tyler, Ruthton, Hendricks, Ivanhoe and Lake Benton &045;have made plans to actually start forming the district by the 2003-2004 school year.

Though a final proposal has yet to be made, it’s a choice that any parent or student doesn’t want to make. Unfortunately, it’s a dilemma that more rural schools will face. Six of every seven Minnesota school districts are seeing declining enrollments, the Minnesota Planning agency reported last year.

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Worse yet, more than one in five rural schools &045; mainly near the state’s western, southern and northeastern borders &045; dropped by at least 10 percent in a decade. Those are staggering numbers that no one likes to talk about.

The idea of joining districts is often emotional because once-rival schools are now mandated to work together. Such plans are often met with resentment because each schools’ sense of individuality is lost and pride becomes an obstacle for plans to move forward. That loss of individuality also spreads through the community as a whole and sometimes clouds the real issues.

Sadly, the consolidation is probably what is best for the students.

Without it, students would suffer, as their educational opportunities would dwindle along with the district.

In such instances, what’s in the students’ best interest and what will provide the best education for them should be the objective &045; no matter how painful the process might be.