Two southern Minn. school districts to vote on mergerby Tom Weber, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Two school boards in southern Minnesota will vote in coming days on whether their districts should merge into one.
The consolidation between the Le Center and Montgomery-Lonsdale districts would be the first in Minnesota in two years.
Votes Thursday and Monday nights by each school board would advance the process but would not commit either district to the merger. That would require another vote later. In addition, the ultimate say in any merger will be left to voters. An election is tentatively set for late May.
Le Center co-superintendent Matt Helgerson said tight budgets have forced deep cuts to the courses his district offers. He supports the merger even though it would also mean closing the high school in Le Center.
"We've exhausted our options here," he said. "We need to do this in order to remain competitive in terms of the course offerings we have. We need to do it for the financial stability of the district, long-term."
A combined district would have roughly 1,800 students. Information meetings for the public will be held in coming weeks.
The state's map of school districts last changed in May, 2009, when voters in west-central Minnesota approved the division of the McLeod West school district into three neighboring districts, Buffalo Lake-Hector, Glencoe-Silver Lake, and Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop. McLeod West dissolved for financial reasons.
Also in 2009, a consolidation between the Ortonville and Bellingham districts in western Minnesota took effect. Voters had approved that merger in September, 2008.