Valley Community Schools considering whole grade sharing - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Valley Community Schools considering whole grade sharing

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It's an issue a number of Iowa's small, rural school districts face:  declining enrollment, which means less state aid.  The Valley Community School District is now looking for a solution to help it remain viable against those odds.

The Valley Community School District in Elgin faces a big problem: declining enrollment.  Enrollment here's gone from an all-time high in the past decade of over 600 students, to right now a record low of 436 students.  If enrollment keeps dropping at a rate of about 10 students a year, it will just get more challenging to keep the same number and quality of programs.  So Valley's looking at the possibility of partnering with a neighboring district for whole grade sharing in the future.

"Obviously we want to do cost savings in a way but we're going into this with doing what's best for our kids.  What would be the things of highest criteria to say, 'These are things we'd really want to work at and partner for whole grade sharing opportunities.'  So we're gathering that information together and see what tendencies there are and what would make the most sense," said Cathy Molumby, Valley Superintendent.

The first step in the process--Valley's sent a letter to four neighboring districts:  Postville, North Fayette, Central in Elkader, and Starmont, to see if they might be interested in sharing resources.  Whole grade sharing could take any number of forms at the middle and high school levels.  It could include more virtual or distance learning, to actually sharing classroom teachers with another district.

"Superintendents and districts that have done this before see it as trying it on for size, dating if you will, situation.  Because there's no obligation.  If it doesn't work, you're still two independent districts," Molumby said.

In any form, it's not an easy concept for district patrons to grasp.  Some see it as a sign consolidation or even school closure could be ahead.  Right now, it's far too early to draw any such conclusions.  But district officials want everyone to be informed, to help them make the best decision.

"It's very emotional.  We're trying to keep communications current and factual.  We have put on our webpage a tab on the front homepage about whole grade sharing information, which is a good resource," said Molumby.

The community's input, including from students, will be taken every step of the way through this process.  Ultimately, the school board will make the final decision on whether whole grade sharing is the next best step. 

The district's required let the state know its decision on specifics of any whole grade sharing plans by February 1.  If Valley does decide to move forward with whole grade sharing, right now the state offers a $59,000 incentive during the first year.

 

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