Citizens bring concerns to Ivanhoe School Board

IVANHOE – Folding chairs had to be brought into the board room at the Lincoln School to accommodate the two dozen community members that showed up to attend the Ivanhoe School Board’s regular meeting Thursday night.

The HI signage has recently been removed from the recently built Lincoln School building in Ivanhoe now that the campus only holds classes for children in elementary school. A dissolved agreement and a lawsuit with the nearby Hendricks School District is the cause of the loss of the high school. Thirty preschool students and 86 children in grades K-6 attend classes in Ivanhoe. Students in seventh grade and up now have to travel to Minneota, Canby and even South Dakota to attend high school.

The school board meeting began at 7 p.m. and adjourned 22 minutes later with business as usual. After the meeting, some attendees expressed their concern over the high taxes that are needed to cover arbitration costs as well as the remaining price tag of the new school building that employs only seven full-time teachers. Other people in the room were still upset about trophies that were thrown away during summer cleaning and were worried about other artifacts from the school’s past.

Blame was bounced between the school board, smaller family sizes and a dwindling rural population. An attendee brought forward a letter from the Minnesota Department of Education that cautioned the school against a new building unless consolidation with another district was considered. The letter was public information, but community members were upset that it was never brought to their attention.

Ivanhoe School Board Chairman Steve Citterman told attendees that he understood that people were upset with the board, but that they were the people in place when these decisions had to be made.

“They weren’t easy, but they had to be made,” Citterman said of the board’s decisions. “Financially, we had to do it, and we did it for the kids.”

Superintendent Dan Deitte defended the board’s decision to cut high school programing at Ivanhoe. Deitte argued that it would not have been feasible to keep a K-12 school open with only six or seven students in a class.

“If we can keep a stable enrollment, we can move forward with a K-6 school here,” Deitte said. “That’s what we had to figure out so Ivanhoe didn’t lose everything.”

Community members were still upset with the breaking of the inter-district agreement with Hendricks that added another $1 million to the district’s tax bill. Again, the board defended its decision, saying that it couldn’t divulge all the details because it is a legal matter, but that there was a good reason for breaking the contract. Still, attendees said that as taxpayers they deserved to know the reason behind the board’s decision, but it was unclear if and when it could be revealed.