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ACGC board will vote tonight on use of Cosmos, Minn., elementary school

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news Willmar, 56201
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

GROVE CITY -- A final vote is expected to be made tonight on whether nearly 60 elementary students will go to school in Cosmos or Atwater next year.

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For at least the last two years the Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City School Board has been analyzing the financial and educational effects of not using the ACGC South Elementary building in Cosmos for its K-4 grade students and instead busing them to Atwater.

The board will meet at 6 p.m. in the performing arts auditorium at the high school/ middle school.

There will be a presentation detailing the data followed by time for public comment.

The agenda includes a proposed motion that all ACGC K-4 students attend classes in Atwater starting next fall.

There are currently 66 students in Cosmos but that's expected to drop below 60 next year, according to Superintendent Sherri Broderius.

There are currently 220 students in Atwater.

Broderius said she's not making a recommendation on the issue and has no idea how the board will vote on the motion.

Each board member will have to "look at the information we've gathered for them" including the audit report and finances and "look at the huge picture of what is ACGC is and go from there."

Broderius said the motion isn't to close the school building but to move students to another school building.

"Are we boarding it up? No. Are we selling it? No," Broderius said.

For the last four years the district has leased a wing of the Cosmos school building to the Southwest/West Central Service Cooperative as a regional school for autistic and other special needs students.

ACGC school board members took a tour of the school recently to see how the program is using the school.

That program is quickly expanding and needs more space.

Broderius said that if ACGC moves its K-4 grade students out, the cooperative would likely utilize the entire building within two years.

Staff reports indicate there would be adequate space for all the ACGC K-4 graders in Atwater.

If the vote is to keep students in Cosmos, Broderius said the board will have to provide direction for additional steps to reduce operating expenses, which could include additional class combinations and teacher reductions at Cosmos.

"It'll require more creative thinking on how we deliver education down there if they decide not to move the kids to North," she said.

At past meetings, parents of Cosmos students have lobbied to keep the Cosmos operating as an elementary school, in part because of small class sizes, positive test scores and location. Parents have expressed concern about the extra commute to Atwater and some have threatened to leave ACGC and go to neighboring districts.

Broderius said she and Principal Kodi Goracke met with about 20 Cosmos parents last month to answer questions about the proposal.

She said she quickly dispelled rumors that the decision to move students had already been made and that discussion on the issue was held during a closed meeting. Parents' main concerns were about transportation, class size and if the teachers from Cosmos would also be moved to Atwater, which she said would indeed happen.

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