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CAWS for applause

They meet in the former Cozy restaurant in Carlton, sitting ’round a long table in a mostly empty room. They have a Facebook page and write letters to the editor on a regular basis. Heck, they even have a mission statement.

Officially, “The mission of the Carlton and Wrenshall School (CAWS) Consolidation Group is to promote excellence in our student's total educational experience through a respectful and fully informed community discussion of all options available to these two small school districts.”

For those who don’t think people have a voice in government, the CAWS group is proof positive that people can make a difference.

Thanks in part to their efforts, engagement and public dialogue, members of the elected Wrenshall and Carlton school boards have agreed to meet Aug. 13, for a preliminary discussion about exploring consolidation between the two rural schools.

It’s an idea that Carlton residents brought up repeatedly in a recent school district survey, even though Carlton is no longer struggling financially, as it was the last time consolidation was a possible discussion point.

At that time, Wrenshall wasn’t interested, and who could blame them? Now, however, is a different story. While both districts are functioning in the black, enrollment has dropped in both school districts in the past few years.

However, until several weeks ago, it seemed like the Wrenshall Board wasn’t even going to entertain the idea of consolidation.

Located a mere four miles apart, the two school districts don’t even field any sports teams together. Carlton combines with Cloquet for hockey, girls soccer, cross country, skiing and tennis, while Wrenshall doesn’t field teams in most of those sports.

That wasn’t always true, said Carlton graduate and School Board Chair Julianne Emerson, who played softball on a combined Wrenshall-Carlton team when she was in school.

Even then there was talk of consolidation.

Which brings us back to CAWS, and their mission statement of carrying out “a respectful and fully informed community discussion of all options available to these two small school districts.”

It’s all about making an informed decision. Exploring the different options. Educating themselves and residents in both districts of the pros and cons of consolidation. Listening to different viewpoints, new and old ideas, taking the time to research rather than denying something in a knee-jerk reaction based on nothing but a misplaced idea of school loyalty.

We aren’t advocating for or against consolidation. Maybe the schools and CAWS will find out it’s not the best option. Rather, we encourage even more people to join in the respectful attempt of this group to educate themselves and others in an effort to make the best decision for the future of the children in both school districts.

Whatever the outcome, it will be better for being researched and discussed in the open using the talents and ideas of many.

Jana Peterson