Two groups that provide support services for colleges and K through 12 schools in Northwest Iowa got final approval Thursday from the State Board of Education to merge. Officials with Area Education Agency four in Sioux Center and the Western Hills A-E-A 12 say declining enrollment led to the decision to merge into a new entity called the Northwest Iowa A-E-A. The new organization will cover 10 counties and 74 public and private school systems. Les Douma, the chief administrator of A-E-A four, says that state board’s approval gives them just under one year to complete the merger. He says they need to get the staff and assignments in place to organize their delivery of services for special education and media by July 1st of 2006. Douma says shouldn’t have any trouble getting things in place. He says they have the administrative structure in place and have already done a lot of work with services, they just need to refine it and make an effective A-E-A. Douma says there’ll be savings in the merger and sharing of services, but he says that’s just one reason for making the change. He says they also want to be sure they’re making a difference in the lives of young people and the schools. The new A-E-A serves the school districts in Lyon, Osceola, Sioux, O’Brien, Plymouth, Cherokee, Woodbury, Ida, Monona and Crawford counties as well as Northwest Community College in Sheldon and Western Iowa Tech in Sioux City.