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Carlton, Wrenshall school districts ready for public input on consolidation


October 11, 2019

The consensus reached at a joint meeting Monday of the full Carlton and Wrenshall school boards is that members will likely seek a referendum in August of next year on facilities improvements at two schools. But that fact, as opposed to having a vote in February, does not mean board members are easing up on what has been a whirlwind of meetings this late summer and fall trying to work out possible conditions for a consolidation.

“Let’s keep the momentum going,” Wrenshall board member Janaki Fisher-Merritt said.

While the Wrenshall board is all in on consolidation with an elementary school at South Terrace in Carlton and a grade 6-12 school in Wrenshall, Carlton board members said they are still kicking the tires on other options. Those are a one-site option, a new school option, or a release of its high school students to other districts.

“We need to know where the Carlton board wants to go,” said Wrenshall board member Deb Washenesky.

Carlton board chairwoman LaRae Lehto said reservations remain after conversation with district residents. She said they are experiencing some “sticker shock” when it comes to the estimated $47 million needed for improvements at the two schools to accommodate the influx of students.

The districts will lobby the state legislature in February to approve a bill that could bring state aid toward the consolidation based on emergency money sent to two schools in the past for new buildings, including Moose Lake. Financial advisors for the districts said Monday it could mean the state picks up 46 percent of the facilities costs.

Both boards are looking toward four public meetings beginning Oct. 21 to hear what residents think when it comes to consolidation and the costs associated with it. The first is at 6 p.m., Oct. 21 at the Wrenshall school. The second is at 6 p.m. Oct. 24 at South Terrace. The third is at 6 p.m. Oct. 28 at Sawyer Community Center. The final public comment meeting is at 6 p.m. Oct. 29 at the Wrenshall school.

Wrenshall has a regular board meeting at 6 p.m. Monday where residents can also chime in. Carlton’s regular board meeting is at 7 p.m. on Oct. 21.

“We have to do our due diligence,” said Carlton Superintendent Gwen Carman Monday in response to questions about where the district was sitting.

Wrenshall Superintendent Kim Belcastro said she hopes there is a consensus between the districts by early November. She said the undefeated Raptors football team and the way Carlton and Wrenshall students are interacting should be a lesson for those deciding on consolidation. “It’s the core of why we are there: the students,” she said. “I’m so tired of being in limbo. The students get it. They are waiting for the adults to figure it out.”


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