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New revenue options could keep Cosmos school open

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West Central Tribune
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New revenue options could keep Cosmos school open
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

GROVE CITY -- The search is on to find new revenue sources that could keep the elementary school in Cosmos open. The answer could be found in the town of Cosmos itself.

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Residents there are eager to keep the school open despite information from Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City School District administrators that shows it costs about twice as much to educate students there compared to the district's other elementary school in Atwater.

The school board is researching a proposal to house all the elementary students at ACGC North in Atwater to save the financially strapped district money.

Currently, there are kindergarten through fourth-grade students at both ACGC North in Atwater and ACGC South in Cosmos. All fifth- through 12th-grade students are at the Junior/Senior High School in Grove City.

A community meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Dec. 7 in Cosmos and the board has said they intend to make a decision Dec. 20, before four new school board members take office in January.

But the six community organizations, including the town's economic development organization, sent a letter asking the school board to delay that decision until more options are explored.

The letter requests more time "to retain our school and preserve a wonderful setting to educate our younger students in this edge of the district."

Those options include the Cosmos city government and business community leasing space at ACGC South to increase revenue, and sharing services, like snow removal and lawn mowing, with the district to reduce expenses.

At its meeting last week, the ACGC School Board heard about the possibility of the city leasing extra storage, garage, meeting and office space in the building for city use.

Chairwoman Judy Raske said the Cosmos community center was recently condemned and cannot be used. She said space in the school could be made available for that purpose, as well as other municipal needs.

"I see it as a community building and a school," Raske said.

School staff gave the City Council a tour of the school and discussed possible cooperative ventures that could increase revenue for the building.

Raske said meetings between the school and city are an opportunity to "open up the dialogue."

She said the school met with the Cosmos Lions Club recently that also asked "how they could help" the school and community groups work together to keep the school open.

Raske also said there's a possibility a private business in Cosmos may be interested in leasing space at the school.

"Right now we're brainstorming," said Superintendent Sheri Broderius.

The district is also talking with its current tenant, the Southwest/West Central Minnesota Service Cooperative, about future additional space needs they might have for the autism program that is housed at the Cosmos school.

Raske said moving students out of the Cosmos school may not be the best option, but she also said the status quo cannot continue.

In other action:

- The board approved a policy on bullying that also includes a section on "cyber bullying," which Broderius said is a "gigantic" issue for schools to address as students use technology, like e-mail, blogs and social networking to communicate.

- The board was also invited to provide anecdotal information gleaned from parents and students about the district's new four-day school week schedule. The board will review the schedule to decide if it will continue.

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Carolyn Lange
A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers county government and regional news with the West Central Tribune.
(320) 894-9750
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