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ACGC talks of moving elementary students out of Cosmos

GROVE CITY -- If the elementary school in Cosmos is closed, there would be room to house those students at the elementary school in Atwater.

That was the report the At-water-Cosm-os-Grove City School Board heard Monday in its continued discussion on whe-ther to stop using ACGC South as an elementary school as a cost-saving measure.

The board is expected to decide in December wh-ether to move the kindergarten through fourth-grade students out of the Cosmos school and into the Atwater elementary school, which also houses kindergarten through fourth grade.

If the move is made, elementary principal Dave Oehrlein said it appears there would be adequate classroom space in Atwater if the State Fire Marshal allows second-floor classroom space to be used by the young students.

The Fire Marshal is expected to tour the Atwater school next week.

If the second floor can be used for such things as Title I programs, Spanish and art, there would be adequate space on the main floor for full-time classrooms, Oehrlein said.

Depending on what the actual combined enrollment would be for each grade, there may need to be three sections for each grade to avoid class sizes of 27 to 36 students, which would occur if there were two sections in each grade, he said.

Last month the board was told that it currently costs about twice as much per student to educate elementary students at the Cosmos school than the Atwater school. Because of steadily declining enrollment at Cosmos, the difference will be even greater next year.

By using expenses for teachers, building operations, capital expenditures and administration and dividing it by the projected enrollment of 251 students, it's estimated to cost $4,140 per student at Atwater next year and $10,113 per student at Cosmos, which would have an enrollment of 68 students.

Next month the board will hear a transportation report on how students would get from Cosmos to Atwater. That meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Oct. 25 in Cosmos to allow local residents there an opportunity to hear additional information. Another public hearing will be held in Cosmos prior to the board's vote on whether to reduce the district's building sites from three campuses to two.

If the school is closed, the building would continue to be leased as a regional center for autistic students and could be used for ACGC programs like the alternative learning program and pre-school, which generate revenue.

The board will have to decide whether to proceed with a $90,000 roof project, whether the elementary students are moved out or not.

In other action Monday:

- The board approved the maximum levy of $2.5 million, which is a decrease of about $1,000 from last year. The decrease is because of a change of classification of some properties, according to business manager Dan Tait. A tax appeal by Jennie-O Turkey Store regarding property values of their feed mill in Atwater could further reduce revenue.

- The board was informed that the Minnesota Department of Transportation will install four solar flashing beacons on state Highway 4 by the Grove City campus to indicate a 35 mph speed limit. The lights will flash for a half-hour before and after school hours, when transportation in and out of the school is at a peak. MnDOT initiated the project and ACGC will not incur any cost.

- In order to meet federal guidelines and to avoid a penalty, the price of adult meals served at the school will increase by 20 cents to $3.25.

- Superintendent Sherri Broderius said the Meeker County Sheriff's Office will bring drug detection dogs into the Junior/Senior High School randomly throughout the year. The action is being taken as a proactive step and not because of big problems, she said.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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