Voters in two western Iowa school districts on Tuesday voted to consolidate, which will create the Exira-Elk Horn-Kimballton Community School District.
The vote was 628-82, according to unofficial results provided by the Audubon County Auditor's Office. The change takes effect in July 2014.
The Exira and Elk Horn-Kimballton districts already have a history of working together. They began sharing a few classes and sports in the late 1990s. And they just wrapped up their second year of what is known as whole-grade sharing — sharing a superintendent, teachers and classes.
“Now we are going to make it official and make it one school district,” said Dean Schnoes, the districts' superintendent. “There are a lot of positive things down the road for the school. … I think everybody has a lot to look forward to."
A physical plant and equipment levy for the new district also passed overwhelmingly.
The two districts combined serve about 450 students.
For Exira and Elk Horn-Kimbalton, joining forces will make it easier to provide courses required by the state and allow them to offer others, Schnoes has said. This year, the high school offered forensic science, which it probably couldn't have by itself.
Not much will change for the students. As before, pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and the fourth- through eighth-grade buildings are in Exira. Elk Horn, about 10 miles away, is home to pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, the first- through third-grade buildings and Exira-Elk Horn-Kimballton High School.
Financial pressures are part of the picture. Exira has operated in the red for several years and faces pressure from the state to get back on track.
But there's also a desire to provide more opportunities for students, Schnoes has said. The schools have used the motto “Joined as one to get the job done.”
Both districts have been part of consolidations before. Nearby Brayton joined with the Exira district in the late 1950s, when rural schools in Iowa and nationwide were being brought into school districts. Elk Horn and Kimballton combined decades ago. Altogether, Iowa has gone from 458 districts in the 1965-66 school year to 348. Nebraska has seen a similar trend, going from 563 public school districts in 2000-01 to 249.
Also in Iowa, voters in the East Greene and Jefferson-Scranton districts west of Carroll in Greene County agreed in February to consolidate. They'll become the Greene County Community School District in July 2014.
In 2011 in western Iowa, Nishna Valley and Malvern, southeast of Omaha, officially joined to become the East Mills Community School District; IKM and Manning, northeast of Omaha, became IKM-Manning Community School; and Anita and C&M, all east of Omaha, became CAM Community School District.