Board to vote on direction of Howard-Winn. district

Todd Knobloch, principal of both Lime Springs-Chester and Elma Elementaries, explained the classes in each room.

Todd Knobloch, principal of both Lime Springs-Chester and Elma Elementaries, explained the classes in each room.

By Marcie Klomp

(Editor’s note: It was hoped to have the answer to the school board’s decision on what will happen to local elementaries for this paper, but the regular school board meeting on Monday, Feb. 25 was rescheduled until Tuesday, after deadline, for a sub state game in Cedar Falls. Find the answer on the Herald’s website at http://www.limespringsherald.wordpress. com or Facebook page and wait for a complete article next week.)

The Howard-Winneshiek School Board has again been forced to look at the future needs of the district. The last time this happened, Ridgeway Elementary was closed. At the rescheduled Feb. 26 board meeting held at the high school, members were to take the first step in making a plan for what lies ahead.

A year ago, a committee was asked to come up with ideas to improve the district. One of those ideas was to have a buildings assessment. The architectural firm of SVPA was hired for the job. The results were presented to the board in December, and the assessment’s recommendations can be found at http://www.howard-winn.k12.ia.us/ .

At the Jan. 28 school board meeting, which was held at Lime Springs-Chester Elementary, Supt. John Carver said something needs to be done with the buildings.

After touring the facility, he advised board members they needed to give him a direction so he knew he could start preparations. He explained the four options he feels need to be addressed:

1) Keep all campuses open and make necessary repairs;

2) Consolidate Elma Elementary into Lime Springs/Chester Elementary or visa versa, with all present grades staying in Cresco;

3) Consolidate all campuses to Cresco; or

4) Consolidate Elma Elementary and Lime Springs/Chester Elementary into a new facility at a different location.

The location mentioned several times was Davis Corners.

He told the LS-C crowd if closing schools was an option, it would not happen in the 2013-14 school years.

Feb. 20 was the date of a workshop at Elma, where audience members were to be given an open mic session to air their concerns. That meeting took place with a large number of citizens from both communities attending. Their comments can be found in an accompanying article.

The first hour of the meeting was spent touring the two-story facility. One of the biggest problems noted of the building was the heating system, which is costly to run.

In the boiler room, Carver said changing from fuel oil to LP gas would save money in Elma. As it is, utilities cost $775.44 per student in Elma during FY 2012 , as compared with $320.00 in Lime Springs, $172.94 at the high school and $97.53 at the K-8 building. (These numbers are slightly different from the estimates given on Feb. 20. They were updated on Friday, Feb. 22.)

Otherwise, the school is in as relatively good condition as a 74-year old structure can be.

The main building was built in 1929, with renovations taking place in 1992-93 and again when it was turned into a charter school in 2005 and stayed a charter until 2010.

The daycare was opened in 2008 and has an average of 30-31 students per day, eight of those being infants.

After the tour, Supt. Carver spoke about his vision for H-W school district. “The board is looking toward the future . . . Going forward it is important to have collaboration from the communities and county, also. We need to market our region to the world.”

He said a strategic plan for the entire area is needed so each entity will complement the others. “Up until now, the plan is, ‘there is no plan.’” His wants H-W to be the premier school district in northeast Iowa. “As Duane Bodermann [board president] has said, ‘the education destination.’”

Carver has said before and said again, the district is not committed to closing any buildings this year. The earliest it would happen is 2014-15. In fact, he stated, “For the record, I don’t want to close any building. I’m against that.” But he admitted things need to change at H-W.

“We need to think different. If we keep doing what we’ve been doing . . . things don’t look good. Just look at energy costs. There is significant dollars we need to invest. If we look at structures, there is significant dollars we need to invest. If we look at safety and security, there is significant dollars we need to invest.”

Several people have spoken to the superintendent saying that with declining enrollment, why not just fold the rest of the students into Cresco. “I don’t think that’s the answer. The center of the district is Davis Corners.”

Change is needed to preserve the H-W district. He gave an example of his school playing Emmetsburg when he was in high school. At the time it was a 3A school. It is now 1A. He doesn’t want to see that happen to H-W.

Carver continued, “The way we went through school does not fit the kids today.” Part of the way to teach kids today is through technology. He said each generation has its own “name,” including Baby Boomers, Generation X and now Globals. That is the name for students in fifth grade and under.

“This is just the beginning of the process. I’ll put it to the board members to give me direction,” he said. Again, their answer can be found at http://www.limespringsherald.wordpress.com, or on the Facebook page.

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