BURNSIDE - The Southeast Webster Grand school board voted 4-3 to approve whole-grade sharing and activities contracts with Prairie Valley Community School District Wednesday.
Board President Dustin Hector, as well as board members Danny Hansen, Todd Lundgren and David Hainzinger, voted in favor of the contracts, while board members Joni Reiling, Bill Hinman and Emily Clausen voted against.
Following its approval, applause sounded from the audience of more than 75.
Due to the size of the crowd, the Southeast Webster Grand Community School District board meeting was moved into the gym Wednesday evening. The board voted 4 to 3 to approve the grade-sharing agreement with Prairie Valley starting in the 2014-15 school year.
Whole-grade sharing will allow both school districts to expand the number of courses offered to their students. Through the contract, each district will keep its elementary school, but would share a single middle school in Burnside and a single high school in Gowrie. Activities costs would be split 50-50 between the districts.
Prairie Valley approved its whole-grade and activities sharing contracts with SWG Tuesday.
The contracts take effect July 1, 2014 for the 2014-15 school year.
Ahead of the roll-call vote, Clausen voiced her concerns about whole-grading sharing between the districts.
"By doing this, we'll become the second-largest district in the state of Iowa, at 497 square miles," she said. "The burden of traveling falls on the school and the families, both in cost and safety. The shuttle schedules have not been proposed yet. What is that cost, both against the school and families?"
Clausen said there needed to be "more of a vision and a plan."
"Change is needed. We owe that to our kids to do something," she said. "I still think there's a lot of unanswered questions and there's still a lot of uncertainties. I truly believe that if we look outside the box and do some creative thinking, rather than just the inevitable, this is what we have to do, we can provide a very good education at Southeast Webster Grand for our kids."
Lundgren spoke in favor of whole-grade sharing.
"As a school board member, our primary function is to put the strongest selection of courses we can offer in front of the school body as possible," he said. "I feel this vision can and will do it. I've heard parents say, What are we going to do if this doesn't work? I would never start anything without intending to make it work."
He added, "I just ask Prairie Valley to take our children as their own, to improve their knowledge and skills, see to their individual needs, to make them the finest citizens .... and we will do the same."
Launi Dane, Southeast Webster Grand superintendent, said the board's approval of the contracts was exciting.
"I'm excited about the fact that there are new opportunities for all the kids in both districts," she said. "That's what I'm excited about."