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Morris Area School Board delays vote on consolidation with Cyrus

The Morris Area School Board did not take any action on a proposed consolidation plan with the Cyrus School District during their regular meeting on Monday.

The school boards for the two districts met in October to discuss details of a consolidation plan. The two boards met separately to approve the plan so it could be submitted to the Pope County Auditor. Once approved, the auditor will pass on the plat to the Minnesota Commissioner of Education, Brenda Cassellius.

Cassellius has between 20 and 60 days to review the plat, after which time it will be returned to both school boards for final approval, likely sometime in January or February 2013.

The Cyrus School Board has already approved the resolution.

However, at Monday's meeting, none of the four Morris board members present made a motion to approve the resolution to consolidate.

The Cyrus school building is the biggest issue for at least two of the board members. Board member Dick Metzger said the fate of the building is a "make or break portion" of the plan.

Gartland said the building is "a big white elephant." He also expressed concern that Morris wouldn't know how many staff members would be coming over until later and the deal is "kinda rolling downhill at that point."

Monson admitted that there are still challenges in the process, but said that the Cyrus district wants to be good partners. However, he said "there will be a point in time when you're going to have to make a decision."

Board member Jamie Solvie questioned what impact delaying a vote would have on the legislative piece of the consolidation.

The Cyrus board plans to ask the Minnesota Legislature for special legislation that would allow them to sell a bond for the amount of their reorganization debt, then levy Cyrus school district residents to repay the loan.

Solvie noted that the legislation can't be written until the consolidation plan is approved.

"We can't wait much longer to get that prepared."

If the two districts fail to consolidate, the Cyrus district will likely have to dissolve. In that case, the Cyrus school board would turn over control of the district to their county board, which then chooses which district to attach the defunct district to. Both districts involved with the dissolution lose all authorization for any existing operating referendums.

Solvie said that would hurt the Morris district.

Because no action was taken on the resolution, Monson said a special meeting with Cyrus will likely be needed.