8 Minn. school districts combine to become 4

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MPR reports that eight school districts in Minnesota are combining into four new districts this spring and summer, the most consolidations in 16 years, according to the Minnesota Department of Education.

The districts that are combining into one:

Northwest Minnesota: Oklee and Plummer

Central Minnesota: Cyrus and Morris

West-central Minnesota: Brandon and Evansville

Southwest Minnesota: Round Lake and Brewster

There was a time in the 1990s in Minnesota when district blending was far more common, MPR notes. But it's never an easy process and parents generally don't like having to bus kids further away. And they are not crazy about giving up some local control. But for districts with sagging enrollment and shrinking budgets, combining districts can be an effective cost-savings tactic, MPR reports. Voters in the Round Lake-Brewster voted overwhelmingly to consolidate.

The state now has 333 school districts, which is about 100 fewer than 20 years ago, MPR noted. The state's Department of Education has a list of district consolidations since 1980.

Consolidation is a long-term, nationwide trend: there were 117,108 school districts in 1939-40, but by 2006-07, the number had dropped to just under 14,000, the School Superintendents Association noted in a 2010 article that examined the pros and cons of consolidation. The group Education Northwest has compiled a list of research papers about the effects of consolidating districts.

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