The 2015-17 state budget act (Act 55) included a new option for school boards to consider when determining how to best provide educational services to students.
Whole Grade Sharing (WGS) authorizes school boards of two or more school districts to enter into an agreement to provide for the education of students, in one or more grades from pre-kindergarten through grade 12, by one or the other of the districts for all or a substantial portion of the school day.
Such agreements have been used extensively in the state of Iowa as an alternative to consolidation. In contrast to consolidation, participating districts can choose to terminate the WGS agreement.
The budget language included various procedures, deadlines, and other restrictions and requirements applicable to whole grade sharing (WGS) agreements.
Section 118.50, Stats., prescribes the timeline that must be followed when entering into a WGS agreement. At this time districts considering the WGS option would be looking at beginning WSG in the 2017-18 school year.
Key considerations with respect to timing include the following:
- A school board may not enter into a WGS agreement after January 10 of the school year preceding the school year in which the agreement takes effect.
- Further, a school board seeking to enter into a WGS agreement must adopt a resolution stating its intention to do so at least 150 days before entering into such an agreement. (This means a school board seeking to enter into a WGS agreement for the 2017-18 school year must adopt a resolution no later than August 12, 2016 in order to do so at least 150 days before January 10, 2017.)
- Within 10 days after adoption of the resolution, the school district clerk must publish notice of the adoption of the resolution as a class 1 notice under ch. 985, Stats., in a newspaper published in the school district or post a notice of the adoption of the resolution as provided in s. 10.05, Stats.
- Within 30 days after publication or posting, a petition signed by at least 20 percent of the electors residing in the school district may be filed with the school board requesting a feasibility study of the agreement. Upon receiving the petition, the school board must contract with an organization approved by the DPI to conduct the feasibility study. If a feasibility study is required, the school board may not enter into, extend, or renew a whole grade sharing agreement until it receives the results of the study. The school board must post the results of the feasibility study on the school district’s Internet site.
- At least 30 days before entering into a WGS agreement, the school board shall hold a public hearing in the school district at which the proposed agreement is described and at which any school district elector may comment on the proposed agreement. Two or more school boards that will be parties to the agreement may hold a joint public hearing in one of the school districts.
- No later than 10 days after entering into a WGS agreement, the school district clerk must file a certified copy of the WGS agreement with the state superintendent.
The budget act also establishes a special adjustment to state aid for school districts that participate in a WGS agreement. The special adjustment applies to the first 6 school years following the school year in which the agreement first takes effect. The amount of the adjustment declines in the 5th and 6th year.
A WGS agreement entered into under s. 118.50, Stats., is not considered an order of school district reorganization under ch. 117, Stats. In addition, a school district not operating certain grades as a result of entering into a WGS agreement with another district under s. 118.50 is excepted from the requirement in s. 117.05(5)(a), Stats., that all territory in the state be included in a school district operating elementary grades and a school district operating high school grades or in a school district operating both elementary and high school grades.
More information on Whole Grade Sharing can be found on the DPI’s website.