Alta-Aurelia whole grade sharing vs consolidation

Thursday, April 28, 2016

School Superintendent Lynn Evans spoke with the Pilot-Tribune this week about the current status of Alta-Aurelia school systems, and the possibility of eventually consolidating the two school systems.

"We currently have a whole-grade sharing agreement between Alta and Aurelia for their middle schools and high schools. This means they maintain their own identity- separate school boards, taxes and budgets, but share students in grades six through 12."

Why share high school and middle school, but not elementary schools? "These 'secondary' classes are the most expensive, so by sharing these grades, the citizens get the most bang for their buck. And a lot of parents like the thought of neighborhood schools, especially in the elementary grades."

What would it take to fully consolidate the two school systems? "Whole grade sharing can be implemented by the school boards, but consolidation would have to be voted in by the people; a simple majority of greater than 50% would do it. Our first whole grade sharing agreement was for a five year period, and it expires in July of this year. We gave consolidation a lot of discussion last summer, but for financial reasons, we decided to approve another whole grade sharing agreement. We get extra dollars from the state for sharing, and that money would go away if we consolidated. The new agreement is for ten years, with the thought of consolidating afterwards." How has it worked out so far? "The first five-year agreement has gone more smoothly than anyone anticipated. I think whole grade sharing has been very well received by the parents and by the students, and I think if consolidation was put to a vote it would pass," Evans said.

"We are operating like a consolidated district now. We try to think as a single system, both boards meet as one. I think we have a shared culture, there is very little talk of differences in the schools. The curriculums are fully aligned at both elementary schools, and as we buy new books, we get the same ones for both schools. And we are working on getting the salary's for both schools aligned.

Everything we are doing now will make consolidation easier when it comes."