Consolidation discussion comes to Wakonda

Consolidation discussion comes to Wakonda
On Tuesday, April 4, members of the Wakonda community met to hear Larry Johnke, superintendent of both Wakonda and Irene, guide them through the consolidation plans put forth by the schools' boards. All members of the Wakonda and Irene school boards were present at the meeting, as well as 100 staff and patrons of both communities.

The focus of the evening was on the proposed consolidation plan. Johnke walked the audience through why, how, where, and when the plan would be accomplished.

Johnke discussed the declining enrollment of the two schools and the associated budget shortfalls that would emerge down the road if the communities don't consolidate. The Wakonda School District has 154 students K-12, while Irene has 190. Johnke did explain, however, that the elementary schools were leveling out, but if the Legislature passes legislation that would eliminate the Small School Factor to schools with fewer than 100 high schoolers, both schools wouldn't be able to make it on their own.

When asked how the consolidation plan would evolve from its current point, Johnke explained that there was a rigid process to it. First, both boards must accept the policies. Second, the state must approve the plan and set an election date. Finally, both communities would vote on the plan, with more public meetings preceding the vote. Johnke estimates that the vote would most likely be in June.

According to Johnke, both boards show an extreme desire to maintain facilities in both communities to promote growth and expansion. Johnke said that with the explosion of population in the Sioux Falls area, experts predict that the I-29 corridor, which extends from the Iowa-Minnesota boarder to roughly Highway 81, is the only part of the state that is growing other than the Black Hills. Because of this, Johnke explained that in the future both communities could see significant growth.

At this time, the middle and high schools would reside in Irene, with the elementary school in Wakonda. Busing hours would remain the same, with a shuttle bus going between the communities. Five classrooms and new dining accommodations would be constructed in Wakonda, and Irene could eventually see construction of a new shop/band/choir wing. As of now, Irene's old building would be demolished, and Wakonda's would be utilized until construction is complete, at which time the issue would be revisited.

If all goes according to plan, the new district, which would be around 284 square miles, roughly 315 students, and a land value of $183,179,992, would take effect on July 1, 2007. Johnke asserted that this is a potentially well-rounded district, and he applauds both school boards for putting together such a viable plan.

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