Staff and students weigh in on North Fayette Valley district merge

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WEST UNION, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) Decreasing enrollment and rising costs have become a problem for rural districts in Iowa over the last decade and a half. That's why many are merging.

North Fayette High School and Valley High School combined their students into one group in 2013. A vote will determine if the districts merge. Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017 (Ethan Fickau/KCRG-TV9)

The number of Iowa districts decreased 11 percent between 2000 and 2016, according to the Iowa Department of Education. There were 374 districts in 2000 and just last year, that number was down to 333. North Fayette Valley high school used to be two different schools. In 2013, North Fayette and Valley school districts combined their high school and middle school students. Students and staff say it's a good change.

"There's been more classes, a variety for the students to take. From the students perspective, I've heard mostly positive things" said Bill Clark, a counselor at North Fayette Valley High School.

"Our students are happy. They're excited to come because we learn so much and having all the different teachers is wonderful because they are experts in their field" said senior Madison Imoeho.

But the two districts are still separate and now a vote next week will determine if they will formally merge or not.

"The teachers are under different contracts and under different policy books and when we put them together then we'll become one school board and one contract and everything that'll make things more consistent" said Superintendent Duane Willhite.

He says combining the districts would provide more stability for the school.

"We are paid on a per-student basis meaning that the money from the state comes as x-number of dollars per student and the fewer students you have the less money you have and you have to cut staff."

Imoeho said most of the students are enthusiastic about the possible merge.

"We have all become such great friends and we're just so excited to see what the future has for us and for the school," she said, "It's just a great feeling and having siblings younger than me it's just so exciting and I mean you all feel that pride when you walk in the building now. We're NFV."

The vote will take place on Tuesday from noon to 8 p.m. If the vote passes, the merger will take effect in July next year.