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Hillsboro School Board will consider tuition agreement with Norman County West

HILLSBORO, N.D. — The superintendent of the Hillsboro School District says it's likely the Hillsboro School Board next week will approve a tuition agreement with its Minnesota neighbor.

Paula Suda said the Norman County West School Board last week approved a proposed tuition agreement for its high school students in Halstad to attend school in Hillsboro.

The district earlier had approved a tuition agreement with Ada-Borup (Minn.) High School but began talks with Hillsboro in January after some parents said they lived much closer to Hillsboro than Ada.

"We felt that it was important to provide opportunities for families that live closer to Hillsboro or spend more of their life west rather than coming east," said Shawn Yates, superintendent of the NCW School District.

Besides the grades 7-12 high school in Halstad, the NCW district also includes an elementary school in Hendrum, Minn. Yates also oversees the Ada-Borup School District with a K-12 school in Ada.

"The realities of having two buildings in two different towns was not cost-effective, and it had some budget deficits the past several years," Yates said. "Looking ahead and not being able to decide overall direction this fall, they actually had a net loss of 70 students. The budget implications for that 70-student loss were severe, and the board felt it necessary to pursue a different direction for the high school students."

Yates said because NCW sixth-graders two years ago were allowed to switch to a new middle school structure in Ada-Borup, they also were included in the tuition proposal with Hillsboro — again to give families the same opportunity to pick the school that's closest to where they live or work.

The deal

The proposed agreement states Norman County West will pay the Hillsboro district $6,060 per student beginning with the fall 2018 school year.

"We're thinking anywhere from 15 to 20 students would come here," Suda said. "We'd be able to house that, no problem."

She said K-12 enrollment at the Hillsboro School District now stands at nearly 500 students — up from last year's total of 450 to 460 students. Of that number, she said about 225 students currently attend the high school that houses grades 7-12.

"Right now with the numbers, we wouldn't have to add teachers. We're sitting pretty good now for classroom sizes," Suda said.

Yates said it's too early to say what will happen with the Halstad high school next year.

"At this time, we're not officially closing the building yet," he said. "They're still trying to decide what they want to do with the facility, and they're considering options at this point."

He also anticipates most of the high school's 88 students will choose to go to Ada-Borup next year, but either way, he says it will help the bottom line.

"You have a lot less staffing, so the expenses go down dramatically when you are not operating two facilities," he said. "We should be able to more effectively meet the needs of our kids in a more efficient fashion."

Suda added that the Hillsboro School District and Norman County West have shared tuition agreements for years.

"Over 30-some years, Hillsboro students had been going to Norman County West," she said. "Last year was the first year all of our North Dakota kids stayed in North Dakota. Now, it's going the other way."

The Hillsboro School Board will consider the proposal at its regular meeting next Thursday.