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End of an era for RL-B

ROUND LAKE -- After years of declining enrollment and subsequent financial difficulties, the Round Lake-Brewster School District has begun the consolidation process and is in the preliminary planning stages of closing the Round Lake high school and establishing secondary tuition agreements with neighboring school districts.

A press release issued by the school stated that the "Interdistrict Cooperative Paired School Districts of Round Lake-Brewster have been planning for some type of school reorganization for the past 2½ years."

Public "listening sessions" were conducted in the fall of 2010 with parents and students to gauge expectations for the school.

This past fall, the two districts notified Nobles County, the Minnesota Department of Education and the Minnesota Secretary of State's office of "their intention to consolidate the two school districts" and also of a plan to reduce the number of school board members from 12 to six.

Projected enrollment statistics through the 2017-2018 school year were presented at a special joint school board meeting on Monday.

According to the projections, by the end of the 2014-2015 school year, both school districts would be in an unsustainable financial position.

It was decided that the best financial and educational option would be to close the high school and operate a pre-K through fifth grade elementary school and a sixth grade through eighth grade middle school at the current elementary school facility in Brewster.

Round Lake-Brewster Su-perintendent Cornelius "Corny" Smit said multiple steps need to be taken before the plan is approved by the board.

The county auditor will first submit the plan and an advisory letter to the Minnesota Department of Education for its reviewal.

The district will then re-spond with a request for consolidation. If the response from the state is positive, a date will be set "for the election of consolidation in each district," said Smit.

A hearing process will be scheduled for public input, and a unilateral decision will not be made until after the public hearing.

In the interim, the pro-posed closure of the Round Lake high school facility will be pursued.

"The building closure could only occur after the districts have voted affirmatively to consolidate and then only with a public hearing for the patrons of the district ... ultimately, it requires action to be taken by the school board," Smit said.

Along with the closure of the Round Lake building, the proposal has pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade students attending school in the Brewster building.

"We now have pre-K through sixth grade in (Brewster), and in the future, we plan on having pre-K through fifth and grade six through eight in Brewster," Smit said.

Students in the high school grades would attend neighboring districts.

"We would negotiate with neighboring school districts for a secondary tuition agreement for grades nine through 12," Smit said.

If approved, all of the plans would take place prior to the start of the next school year, and most would have to happen before July 1, Smit said.

"Other than starting the consolidation process, the rest of it is in the prelimi-nary planning stages; the secondary tuition agreement and the closure are all just proposed," Smit added.

While senior Kurt Schmitz will leave the high school at the end of this year and therefore won't feel the effects of the closure, he said he was disappointed to see the school close.

"It's sad that they're clos-ing it, especially since it's been here for so long," he said.

Round Lake faculty de-clined to comment on the proposed closure after re-ceiving an email yesterday morning asking them not to speak with students or others about the decision.

The school's press release stated that the school will continue to provide quality education while it moves through the process.

"In this difficult time, we would hope that our com-munities and parents will continue to support our schools," the release said. "There is a strong value in smaller school public education."

Daily Globe Reporter

Alyson Buschena may be reached

at 376-7322.

Alyson Buschena
Alyson joined the Daily Globe newsroom staff after spending a year in Latin America. A native of Fulda and graduate of the University of Northwestern, she has a bachelor's degree in English with a dual concentration in Literature and Writing and a minor in Spanish. At the Daily Globe, Alyson covers the crime beat as well as Pipestone and Murray counties, community news and feature stories. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, reading, and cooking. More of Alyson's writing can be found at
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