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Daily News Editorial

By Staff | Nov 13, 2009

Ironically, whenever schools start talking about consolidation, the discussion often turns toward where the new school will be built.

That’s interesting, since cost is just about always the motivating factor toward consolidation. Many districts close their existing buildings and build a new school in a location that’s politically agreeable to both parties.

However, with today’s technology, there’s no reason schools can’t keep their existing buildings, save the cost of new construction and just share staff.

The way it could work would be like this.

Staff could be consolidated through attrition and early retirement incentives. A major reason people continue to work is for health insurance. However, a district that is able to continue to pay a portion of an employee’s health insurance can provide that retirement incentive.

People need to be replaced, of course. However, by working together, districts can specialize in the teachers they hire, so a biology specialist could teach a course broadcast over ICN or Scipe from one location while a chemistry or physics specialist could teach in his or her specialty over the same media. As a result, smaller districts through either whole-grade sharing or consolidation could offer specialized courses that would normally only be available at larger school districts.

Of course, there needs to be student supervision. However, a classroom monitor or aide requires a lower rate of pay than a certified teacher. Undoubtedly, many of those teachers who took early retirement would be willing to supervise classes. There’s also help available from RSVP volunteers who would love the chance to return to the classroom, this time as a monitor or aide. And by placing a window between two classrooms, an aide could feasibly monitor two classes, further cutting down costs.

Estherville Lincoln Central Superintendent Dick Magnuson said at Monday night’s board meeting that 85 percent of the district’s budget was for personnel. That’s probably pretty typical for most school districts.

By sharing staff through technology, though, that cost could be cut drastically. Let’s hope that when pressed toward consolidation our schools consider the role technology can play in bringing schools together on the Web.

Randy Collins, who serves as superintendent for both Armstrong-Ringsted and Graettinger-Terril, has broached this very subject a number of times with the A-R board, so look for it to happen, and soon.

After all, today’s innovation is tomorrow’s norm.