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Voters approve school merger

ROCK FALLS – Next fall, almost 300 students will be among the first to walk the halls of the new East Coloma-Nelson School District No. 20.

On Tuesday, voters in both districts supported consolidation of the struggling Nelson and East Coloma districts.

East Coloma voters overwhelmingly approved the merger, 342-80, or 81 percent approval. Nelson voters approved it 51-30, or 63 percent in favor.

“I think the people realized that it was necessary,” East Coloma Superintendent Kevin Andersen said. “It truly is a win-win.”

Students from both schools will reap the benefits of smaller class sizes, more individualized instruction, and expanded programs and class offerings.

Nelson students will move from multiple-grade classrooms (served by just one teacher) to single-grade classrooms. They will receive hot lunch. And they will have access to in-house after-school activities and sports.

East Coloma students will be in a two-track system – that is, a school that has two sections of every grade. They will see smaller class sizes and more individualized instruction. They also will be exposed to more students.

Teachers in both districts can collaborate and develop curriculum together, offer intervention programs and elective classes, and better monitor student progress. All full-time teachers in both districts will have jobs in the new district.

“I think the people looked at it ... and looked into the future and did what is best for the kids,” Nelson Superintendent Gregory Lutyens said.

Both districts have struggled financially for the last few years – and unless they reorganized soon, they would have continued to struggle in the face of slashed state aid and increased educational demands.

The districts pursued consolidation to form a new, educationally robust and financially stable school district.

A new, seven-member, at-large board – of which six members were elected Tuesday – now must lay the groundwork for the new district, which becomes effective July 1.

Most students already know each other from joint field trips, extracurricular activities and community sports programs. Teachers, though, will get together in the coming months to get acquainted and work on curriculum.

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