8 Minn. school districts decide to consolidate

Published 9:47 am Monday, July 15, 2013

By Tim Post
Minnesota Public Radio News

The Oklee and Plummer schools in northwestern Minnesota shared sports teams and resources for nearly a decade. So when officials sought to merge the small town schools into a single district to save money, voters in June didn’t blink. Many thought the districts were already merged.

“They just felt it was a natural time to put it together — let’s build a future now as one instead of two districts,” said Jim Guetter, superintendent of the remade Red Lake County Central district.

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School district mergers don’t often go so smoothly. Schools are a deep source of pride and identity in many communities. Mergers bring some loss of control. People rarely want to see their neighborhood school close or see their kids bussed to the next town, even if it makes financial sense.

This spring and summer, eight districts move to combine into four new districts, the largest number of consolidations in 16 years, according to the Minnesota Department of Education.

They included Oklee and Plummer in northwestern Minnesota, the Cyrus and Morris districts and the Brandon and Evansville districts in west central Minnesota, and Round Lake and Brewster in the southwestern part of the state.

That’s nowhere near the dozens of mergers that happened every year in the mid-1990s. But it shows districts still see it as a money saving option, especially when enrollment lags and funding is tight.

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