Legislator wants mandatory consolidation for small districts - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Legislator wants mandatory consolidation for small districts

GUTTENBERG (KWWL) -- An Iowa lawmaker wants to force smaller Iowa school districts to consolidate. State Senator Matt McCoy of Des Moines plans to introduce a bill that would force districts with fewer than 750 students to merge with a nearby district.

That would mean almost two thirds of Iowa school districts would beforced to consolidate. McCoy says it would improve efficiency and expand student services.

"Iowans are passionate about the rural way of life, but the fact is we have seen these districts continue to loss population and we're at the point today where we can't afford to do what we've done in the past," McCoy said.

The subject of consolidation brings mixed emotions. One district that chose to condolidate recently and may now be forced to merge again with this proposal.

Guttenberg and Garnivillo Community School Districts merged together several years ago to create one district, Clayton Ridge. That process took years to get community support and to make the transition. Now, with the proposed bill, they could have to consolidate again.

With school board decisions and an eventual 90-percent community approval Clayton Ridge Schools was created.

"The kids now, they're Clayton Ridge Eagles. It's not Guttenberg or Garnavillo anymore. I think the community, the parents, everybody's bought into it. But that takes a lot of time. That takes a lot of effort. That's not an easy thing because you're taking two different cultures and trying to mix them," Principal Kris Einck said.

After years of planning, in 2000, the transition started with merging sports teams and mascots. By 2005, the transition was complete with total grade consolidation.

"They didn't try to force. You know, we're going to be the Guttenberg Pirates or we're going to be the Garnavillo Hawks. We're going to start fresh, and make a new name, a new logo," Einck said.

Some parents say the only real downside has been extra commuting for kids. Now, some worry that bus ride could get longer.

Clayton Ridge has around 670 kids enrolled so under the proposal's terms, they would have to consolidate again, this time mandated by the state.

"I think in our conference among of the schools in our conference would be affected, so I don't know how that would work out. I think there's a lot of questions you'd have to answer, but i guess that's something that could be down the road," Einck said.

Instead of consolidation, other eastern Iowa schools are cutting back on administrators. For example, the Postville district is utalizing a part-time interim superintendant, and Turkey Valley and North fayette will be sharing a superintendant beginning next year.

Online Reporter:  Jamie Grey

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