Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, June 18, 2001

Lester Prairie cooperation committee meets with Glencoe-Silver Lake

By Patrice Waldron

Members of Lester Prairie School's cooperation committee met Thursday with representatives of the Glencoe-Silver Lake (GSL) school district.

"The process has just started, we're talking, and that's about it," said Bob Remer of the Lester Prairie School Board.

The meeting started with Lester Prairie members explaining where their school stands.

They said they have not made any firm commitments; they are just gathering information.

There has been talk of a joint use facility for city and school use, to include an indoor pool, library, and city offices, explained Lester Prairie Supt. James Redfield.

Talk of cooperation between school districts or consolidation was at the forefront of the discussion.

"Consolidation or cooperation, there are realities in the budget," said Kyllo.

"The board, myself and Dr. Redfield, we went to the first (HLWW task force) meeting. They had something on the table," said Kyllo.

"My feeling is that you'd go through all the steps. The more steps you can write down, the better you are in the process," said Redfield.

"To be fair to HLWW, they haven't really talked about consolidation, mostly just about the building (new high school)," said Redfield.

"What do we have to offer the other schools?" Kyllo said, giving another angle to the process.

A question was posed by Glenn Gruenhagen of the GSL group, what specific grades are involved, whether there was a preference in the community.

"Some of us have a preference for keeping k-12," said Remer.

"Not one person has said less than k-8 here," said Lester Prairie School Board member Barry Kyllo.

"Losing the school is the big thing (for Lester Prairie). Enough people think we can grow enough to not give up the school," said Kyllo.

Joe Miller, dean of students, outlined some of the programs Lester Prairie has to offer.

High school students are encouraged to attend Ridgewater College in Hutchinson part of the day, and Lester Prairie High School the rest of the day.

College courses are also available through the interactive television (ITV) network, and from Southwest State University at Marshall.

"One of the most exciting experiences has been with distance learning," said Miller.

It is the philosophy at Lester Prairie High School that technology can make it possible for smaller schools to offer more.

"You're being creative, using technology to offer the classes," said Gruenhagen.

Issues, such as declining enrollment and the school budget, were also discussed.

"Almost all schools around the state are declining (in enrollment) in the elementary grades. We're not quite as bad as the southwest part of the state," said Redfield.

"If you're static or declining, that means budget cuts," Gruenhagen said.

A concern between both schools was that programs be offered, even will budget constraints.

"How can we maximize what is available to the kids, and still do it?" Kyllo asked. "If you had to chop it (due to budget cuts), could you coordinate with someone else to do it?"

The underlying hope of growth in the community was expressed by several people.

"New development (in Lester Prairie) will hopefully attract new, younger families," said committee member and member of the Lester Prairie City Council, Roland Bruckschen.

"You cannot project what your population will be unless you realistically look at what you will have with open enrollment," said Redfield.

"You can want all you want, but you have to make some of those decisions," said Kyllo, in reference to the economics of running a school.

When it comes to extracurricular activities, it was felt that a balance needs to be found. Some schools simply are not able to offer every activity students may desire.

It was said that before Glencoe and Silver Lake paired, it was difficult to offer the programs when funding was coming from two separate budgets (for the same activity). Once the schools paired, the number of offerings became more comprehensive, said Joe Chmielewski of GSL.

A joint meeting between the Lester Prairie School Board and the Glencoe-Silver Lake School Board is being considered by both groups.

After the representatives from GSL left, the Lester Prairie committee met to discuss the next step.

"There's a potential for a joint meeting together. Get to know who you are, open up lines of communication," said Miller.

"They (GSL) have gone through consolidation. Consolidation is on one side of the scale, and there are many other things in between," said Kyllo.

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