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Renville County West School Board considers closing school in Sacred Heart

RENVILLE -- The Renville County West School Board will probably decide next month whether to close its elementary school in Sacred Heart and move all the students to the high school building in Renville.

At its meeting this week, the board reviewed comments heard at a public hearing earlier this month in Sacred Heart. Board members also discussed a possible plan for moving all grades into the high school in Renville.

School officials will be adding to that plan over the coming months, Superintendent Lance Bagstad said in a telephone interview.

"Whether it happens this summer or next summer, it's going to happen," Bagstad said. "We need to be as prepared as we can be."

Some work, like routine maintenance and sorting through storage areas, needs to be done anyway, he said, and that can start before the board makes a final decision.

The district is considering closing a building to save money. Like most districts in the area, RCW needs to make budget cuts before the next school year. Closing the Sacred Heart building could help the district save enough money to prevent deep cuts to academic programs.

The closure would be part of a plan to save $325,000 a year. The plan also includes staff cuts.

The next board meeting is scheduled for April 14, and the board will set a meeting for later that month to make a final decision about closing the school, Bagstad said.

He said the district plans to distribute more written information about the potential budget cuts before the board makes a final decision.

In other budget-related matters, two teachers accepted the board's offer of an extended leave of absence that will lead to retirement: Cheryl McGarthwaite and Vickie Bratsch, both teachers at the elementary school.

"They've been great staff members," Bagstad said. "They'll be missed."

The board voted to lay off two tenured teachers: Jo Grove and Barb Kronlokken, who both teach at the elementary school.

Four non-tenured teachers were laid off: high school teachers Kevin Brent, Diane Fortney and Adam Foslien and special education teacher Lori Ludwig.

The teacher layoffs were needed because the district is unsure of its state funding levels for next year. Teacher layoffs for the following academic year must be done in the spring because of legal requirements about notice and appeals.

If the district has funding available in the fall, "we hope to bring them all back," Bagstad said.

The board voted to continue its relationship with the West Central Integration Collaborative, which will bring special levy revenue of $54,372 to the district next year. The money will be used to provide the Foreign Language in the Elementary School program and to provide a school success coordinator at the high school.

"It's been pretty beneficial and a good program for us at both our sites," Bagstad said.