In the Spotlight

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The View from the Inside
By Brittney Olson, Jana Hup, Becky Broesder, Tonya Lennderts
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It's long been the trend of small Minnesota schools to reorganize and consolidate. That trend is starting to decline but for many aging districts, the issues are still prevalent. Four sophomore students from Hills Beaver Creek prepared this look at their district.

Back (left to right) : Brittney Olson, Jana Hup
Front (left to right): Becky Broesder, Tonya Leenderts
Hills is a town of 600 with no movie theater or video store, no bowling alley or restaurants. On the map it can't be any further south or west and still be part of Minnesota. Most people work in nearby towns of Sioux Falls, Luverne, or Rock Rapids, Iowa. Hills is the home of the district's consolidated junior and senior high schools. The elementary school is six miles north in Beaver Creek. The two towns joined the schools in 1966 before consolidation was even popular.

Erma Schubbe taught second grade at Hills for 21 years. She's retired now, but her cheerful personality endeared her to hundreds of students over the years. She says before the consolidation with Beaver Creek, her classroom was wall-to-wall seven-year-olds olds with mountains of workbooks. She says the state wanted each school district to have at least 300 students and that's what led to the consolidation.

The school boards made the decision with little public input. Schubbe says the two towns were bitter sports rivals and that lived on among some oldtimers after the merger.
Schubbe: I know they would watch to see, like on the football team, how many kids were from Beaver, how many were from Hills playing on the varsity, you know - little thinks like that; they would all watch but nobody thinks about it anymore. But they did right at first.
Schubbe says the students in 1966 got along better than the adults, but the tension quickly diminished. She says she liked going to teach in Beaver Creek because the classrooms were larger, although she says their multi-colored pink-and-blue walls were the worst thing about the consolidation.

Of course to us who are now sophomores in high school, this is all ancient history. Our experience with consolidation started three years ago.

As enrollment continued to decline, state officials wanted Hills Beaver Creek to consolidate with nearby Luverne. The two schools that make up Hills Beaver Creek had numerous fire and safety code violations. Ann Boeve spearheaded the "Save Our School campaign. She says the communities didn't want another consolidation and explored all of their options.
Boeve: Some of the options that I hear of were building one school K-12 or building on two different sites or remodeling or to consolidate with the next district. So, I think the community was in favor of updating the facilities with the money we could spend.
After a public debate, voters overwhelmingly rejected consolidation to support a remodeling plan for the high school and construction of a new elementary school. Many believed it was worth having higher taxes than focusing support on a larger district 20 miles away.