Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Oct. 1, 2001

Sharing options discussed by Glencoe-Silver Lake and Lester Prairie schools

By Gail Lipe

What does the Lester Prairie School have to offer the Glencoe-Silver Lake schools? What does the Glencoe-Silver Lake School District have to offer the Lester Prairie school?

Those questions began a discussion between committees from both districts last week. The boards previously met, and set up the committees to further investigate the possibilities of sharing programs.

The reason Lester Prairie initiated the discussion is the size of the Lester Prairie school and the need to increase program offerings, said Chester Hoernemann, vice chairman of the Lester Prairie School Board.

He said the enrollment has remained steady for many years, but there is a good probability that enrollment may increase rapidly with the residential developments that are being planned around the city.

"We are looking at all options, whether sharing resources or pairing resources," said Hoernemann.

"It ultimately needs to be whatever benefits the students," said Nancy Krull, Lester Prairie school board member. "We have to try to look at what Lester Prairie has to bring to the table to benefit Glencoe-Silver Lake, and what Glencoe-Silver Lake has to bring to the table to benefit Lester Prairie, and whether sharing is enough or we need to consolidate."

"As a parent, I think it is too soon to look at consolidation," said MerriLea Kyllo, a Lester Prairie parent on the committee. "I think we should look at what pairing or cooperating programs would do.

"What I want as a parent is the best for the kids. I want all the doors open so if they have potential, they can reach it," she said.

Mary Ann Straley, superintendent of Glencoe-Silver Lake, said something that needs to be concentrated on in the discussion is what things Lester Prairie can offer. She said she has worked in other districts where smaller districts have shared programming or have consolidated with larger districts.

"Smaller districts almost always feel like they are swallowed up unless they can give something," she said.

Tuition follows the students. That is why students need to go both ways, to help even out the finances, Straley said.

Kyllo said one of the positives of Lester Prairie High School is that she has been able to work one-on-one with the teachers. Her daughter needs advanced classes in some subjects, and has been able to take them because the high school is down the hall from the elementary.

She had talked to Clay Arvidson, Lakeside principal, about programming in Glencoe and was told that putting an elementary or junior high student in advanced classes at the high school would not work because the location of the schools is so far apart.

Lester Prairie also has a strong computer-aided drafting program, which was discussed.

Straley suggested the districts each specialize in an area that the other district could share. If the districts are interested in developing a program, then the one that already has an area it might fit in would be the place to develop it.

Kyllo asked about advanced placement classes in Glencoe. She said there are none in Lester Prairie, and her daughter would need them in the future.

Scot Kerbaugh, Glencoe-Silver Lake principal, said that there are advanced placement classes at the high school in calculus, biology, American history and physics. He said the numbers are low this year, but he expects them to increase as more parents are aware of the classes. "They won't stay low a long time," he said.

"I'm not sure advanced placement is the way to go," said Kerbaugh. "College in the classroom may be better."

But, financially, advanced placement classes are affordable and college classes in the classroom cost much more, he said.

He also said there is a fallacy out there that you get college credit if you take an advanced placement class, but only 15 percent pass the test at the end of the class that qualifies the student for college credit.

James Redfield, Lester Prairie superintendent, said there are students from the Lester Prairie school taking college in classrooms, over the interactive television, over the internet and through the post secondary education option at college campuses.

He said the teacher training for advanced placement classes is good and "beefs up" the teachers. It also helps them in other classes they teach.

Hoernemann said he was concerned that if Lester Prairie students were to participate in the advanced placement classes at Glencoe, that the Glencoe-Silver Lake students would take priority.

"When you are providing a class, you take care of your students first," he said.

Straley said there also are parents who say that their child should be in the class because he is in the district.

If classes were to be shared, the students would need to travel for one-half day, said Straley. She based that on her experience in other districts she has worked in.

She also said vocational classes were good to share because they can be very expensive.

Mark Rudy, who is running in the Glencoe-Silver Lake school board election coming up in November, said one of the first things the committee needs to look at is transportation.

"I think there are a lot of good ideas, but we need to have an objective," said Krull. "I think we are all in agreement to check scheduling for curriculum from both districts for next year. I don't see where that would take a whole lot of work. We have our schedules, and they would not change much."

What was done in a previous situation at a district Straley worked at was that the districts exchanged registration manuals.

But Rudy asked how much work Glencoe-Silver Lake wanted to put into the investigation without a commitment from Lester Prairie.

He said Lester Prairie has formed three committees - one working with Howard Lake Waverly Winsted, one with Glencoe-Silver Lake and one with the city - and has not made any commitments.

Krull said Howard Lake Waverly Winsted wants a decision from the Lester Prairie School Board by the end of the 2001 because of the new high school that is being planned. The infrastructure is already there with Glencoe.

Redfield asked if the districts consolidated, which would increase grade sizes to approximately 200 students, would it increase opportunities for the students?

Kerbaugh said the last two school districts he worked at had 400 students per grade and Glencoe-Silver Lake has offerings that are pretty much the same. He said there just are not as many sections.

He also said the smaller districts may have staffing problems, and consolidating could make the resources available to keep the best staff.

"I think the lines are blurred," said Kerbaugh. "There are too many things on the table. The committee cannot go anywhere."

He suggested just looking at sharing a half-day curriculum.

The committee decided to exchange class offerings and schedules, and have each district take a look at it to see if there are things that could be shared. After the Lester Prairie committee meets again and gets input from parents and students, it will call another meeting with the Glencoe-Silver Lake committee.

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