Herald and Journal, April 26, 1999

HLWW, LP school boards begin consolidation talk

By Andrea Vargo

The money is significant, HLWW Superintendent Riley Hoheisel told the Lester Prairie School Board last Monday.

He referred to the five to six million dollars that should be available in the form of a state grant to build a new high school, if the HLWW and Lester Prairie School Districts decided to consolidate.

The full school boards from both districts met to ask questions and explore the possibilities available to students and taxpayers, if the two districts should consider consolidation.

Together, they could provide a new high school with some extra features, like a swimming pool and/or a fine arts performing center.

Lester Prairie Superintendent James Redfield asked Hoheisel what HLWW would be planning to do program-wise.

Hoheisel stated his concerns that smaller districts, HLWW included, may not be able to deliver all the competitive programs students need to succeed in life.

Hoheisel said, "We are squeezing nickels all the time, and it is not going to be easy to balance budgets (in the future)."

HLWW architect Bob Abendroth interjected, "HLWW didn't look at a new building just because of the growth (of the area)."

Abendroth said the district does need a good anchor facility.

It isn't just about shiny new buildings; it is about good teaching, he said.

HLWW Board Chair Jim Raymond said that both schools have excellent programs that complement each other.

It would be good for the students at HLWW to have access to a program like the Computer Aided Drawing (CAD) program in Lester Prairie, said Raymond.

In the same vein, HLWW has excellent music, drama, and agriculture programs. Both districts have college level classes for students.

HLWW is almost running at capacity, and that always hurts programs, said Abendroth.

Hoheisel said all the 7-12 grades are experiencing growth.

Redfield restated his first question about school programs and what was being planned by HLWW.

Long Range Facilities Task Force member Jack Littfin told Redfield, "We always wanted to make sure it was kept in mind that Lester Prairie should be involved with the planning process, (if the district is interested in consolidation)."

"We are saving everyone money (by consolidating), "said Littfin.

Abendroth said that when districts merge, the new district needs to have programs from both schools.

"Now is the time to come over and express your opinions," he said.

Abendroth told the group that it is his opinion that staffs from both districts are usually aprehensive, but it has been his experience that they end up happier than before.

Redfield told the HLWW School Board that Lester Prairie has a planner investigating his district's needs, and she is about halfway through the work.

He felt his district should have that information before making any kind of a decision.

The meeting ended with the promise of another meeting that would include HLWW principals.

The principals would provide more in-depth information to Lester Prairie about programs available to students at HLWW.

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