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CORWITH — After visiting the Algona and West Hancock school districts, more students in grades seven through 10 in the Corwith-Wesley and LuVerne school districts said they’d rather attend Algona schools than West Hancock, according to a survey of those students.

The survey and comments from staff and students were shared with the public at a forum on Thursday night in Corwith.

The forum was held before the two school boards of Corwith-Wesley and LuVerne unanimously voted to begin whole-grade sharing discussions with the Algona School District.

The districts plan to share grades 7-12 with Algona at the start of the 2015-2016 school year. The boards said Thursday they plan to operate an elementary school in LuVerne after the 2014-2015 school year ends.

The districts have been considering Algona or West Hancock as a sharing partner.

Superintendent Tom Fey, who oversees both districts, said about 87.5 percent of the students said Algona was a school they would “highly likely” or “likely” attend while about 62.5 percent said they’d “highly likely” or “likely” attend West Hancock.

Most students said they found both schools friendly and would feel at least somewhat comfortable at either school.

School officials stressed during the forum that the two disticts were seeking a sharing partner to offer the best academic experience for students.

Fey said financial issues, declining enrollment and the school’s ability to continue to offer a quality academic program are driving the need to share.

The loss of the Corn Belt Conference is another factor but on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 as the least influential, the conference ranks as 9 or 10 as a reason, Fey said.

Corwith-Wesley and LuVerne have been sharing partners since 1981. Corwith-Wesley has 115 students in the district while LuVerne has 76. Student enrollment is tied directly to state funding and the district’s ability to generate revenue to operate the school, Fey said.

District resident Dave Wagner asked if Fey and Principal James Rotert planned to continue working at the school until the whole-grade sharing takes effect.

Rotert said he couldn’t guarantee he’d be with the district until the start of the 2015-2016 school year because “I have to look out for my family,” he said. Rotert said he has four children and he knows that in a couple of years he will be out of a job.

Rotert said he’d be dedicated and work hard for the districts while here.

“I may not see this through to the end,” Fey said. He retired two years ago but decided the position was an opportunity to take.

He, too, said he’d be dedicated while in the position.

Corwith-Wesley board chairman Keith Hauswirth said the boards know some teaching staff may also leave before whole-grade sharing is effective.

“We’d like for everyone to teach here until we are done,” Hauswirth said.

Rae Yost is editor of the Forest City Summit and Britt News-Tribune, both Lee Enterprises newspapers.

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