MARSHALL - District 20A House Rep. Andrew Falk, DFL-Murdock, answered critics of a bill he introduced that would dissolve the Hendricks School District and absorb it into the Ivanhoe School District, but critics are not mollified.
In an email sent to Hendricks City Administrator David Blees, Falk said, "The Hendricks and Ivanhoe school districts had been in a long-standing academic paring program that recently came to an end. The reason for the dissolution is not my major concern, however, the ramifications from it are. Namely, the loss of sparsity revenue (funding to pay for the added costs of operating geographically isolated small schools) eligible to those students, the implications related to interstate reciprocity agreements, and the questionable status and the legality of the online high school established by Hendricks."
According to Falk, there are questions about whether the online Hendricks High School constitutes a qualified high school education, and whether operating two K-12 schools within 17 miles of each other forces resources to be expended that could better be devoted to a single school.
Falk told the Independent on Monday he did not intend the bill to go through without further efforts to resolve the situation at the local level.
"I don't want to close the school district," Falk said. "I want them to work it out. There is obviously a problem, and I have put forth the solution as an end-stop. I want them to come up with a solution."
Blees forwarded Falk's email to Hendricks Public School Principal Shelly Jensen for comment.
In replying to Falk, Jensen said there were several false statements in Falk's email.
"You stated that 402 (Hendricks) and 403 (Ivanhoe) have been in a long-standing academic pairing program 402 and 403 have an inter-district agreement," Jensen wrote. "Then you go on to say Hendricks broke the agreement with Ivanhoe. That is not true. If you look at board meeting notes from June, our school was prepared to begin the 2011-2012 school year with a K-6 building, just as we provided the year before... In late June, the Hendricks School board was shocked to learn that Ivanhoe announced they were opening a K-12 in the fall of 2011. Hendricks did not break the agreement, Ivanhoe did."
Jensen went on to defend Hendricks' academic program using a hybrid classroom concept to bring students the best education possible via advanced technology.
Falk said the issue surrounding the bill had been "blown out of proportion" but conceded the Hendricks School Board had not been informed of the bill in a timely fashion.
"I've talked with both sides and both say the other broke the agreement and it's a question of who did what," Falk said. "Ultimately the result is the same. My first concern is how to get those dollars to the kids."
Jensen said Hendricks lost its elementary sparsity dollars years ago when it entered into the interdistrict agreement.
"I think it's important if there's something to be worked out between the two parties it should stay between our districts," Jensen said. "I feel this was done behind out back. If that was his purpose, it definitely didn't help."