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RCW adopts levy with 35 percent decrease

RENVILLE -- The Renville County West School Board has adopted a preliminary 2010 property tax levy that is 35 percent less than the 2009 levy.

The board adopted a preliminary levy of $877,339 at its meeting Monday.

The board also discussed how the first week of school had gone with all of the district's students in one building.

The levy adopted this week was $486,000 less than the one adopted a year ago. That's because the levy taxpayers have paid in 2009 included funding for a sprinkler system in the school building in Renville.

The sprinkler system was ordered after a fire inspection, and the state allowed the district to levy the full cost.

"Our district's taxpayers should end up paying less for schools," said Superintendent Lance Bagstad.

The district has a budget of about $6 million. RCW currently has nearly 560 students, Bagstad said, but about 10 percent of them are children of migrant workers who may not spend the entire school year in the district.

RCW started the school year with all its students in the building in Renville. The School Board voted this spring to close the elementary school in Sacred Heart and move all students into the secondary school in Renville. The move is expected to save money and increase efficiency.

"A lot of people did a lot of work," Bagstad said. In addition to the physical effort of moving classroom equipment, staff in the district redid class schedules and transportation routes. The cafeteria geared up to feed twice as many students, and two libraries were combined into one.

Technology coordinator Dale Negen wrote grant applications to help fund a school-wide mural project and a new library catalog program.

"Everybody deserves a lot of credit," Bagstad said.

The staff and students dealt with "some minor glitches" in the first few days, he said. Two high school classes were scheduled for the same room at the same time, but that problem was fixed quickly. A remaining problem is a bottleneck in the hallway when fifth-graders are in the hall while senior high students are leaving the cafeteria.

"If that's the biggest concern, we're doing pretty good," he said.

"We are a new school," he added. "There are new procedures for everyone."

Bagstad said the move appears to have been good for the students. Some juniors and seniors have been able to volunteer as teacher helpers in the elementary grades."It's a wonderful opportunity" that gives the teens a chance to be mentors and role models for the younger students, he added.

The excitement about the beginning of another school year has been tempered by the empty building in Sacred Heart.

"I think it was a sad day at Sacred Heart," he said. For the first time "in well over a hundred years," there were no kids.

"So it's not all good news," Bagstad said. "It's also very sad, and we need to be sensitive that another community lost its school."

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

(320) 214-4340