Consultants Present County School Study Findings
Wed, 14 Aug 2019 14:00:17 CDT
If three of the four school districts in Montgomery County were to consolidate and a new high school was constructed, that facility would house approximately 1,000 students, according to Dr. Len Bogle.
This and many other figures were revealed during a presentation of school reorganization on Monday, Aug. 12. Ninety-five area teachers, administrators, school board members and interested citizens filled the auditorium at Lincoln Land Community College in Litchfield. Bogle and fellow professors, Dr. Bill Phillips and Dr. Scott Day, presented their findings on the study, which was requested by the Montgomery County School Study Commission.
Representing the commission, Bob Mulch opened the presentation by welcoming those in attendance. The committee, he said, believes that a strong school system is an integral part of making Montgomery County an attractive place to live. The Hillsboro, Litchfield and Panhandle districts were included in the study. When asked why Nokomis was not involved, Mulch said they declined to participate, though he admitted he did not know the reason why.
The estimated cost of building a new consolidated high school for students in the three districts is $61 million. Cost of transportation would also be a factor to consider. The consultants presented a scenario in which a new building would be built between Hillsboro and Litchfield. Such a scenario would require the new district to pay for transportation for students from each community. That projected cost would equal $53,916. If Hillsboro and Litchfield were to consolidate without Panhandle, the projected cost would decrease to $35,383.
This was one of the reasons the consultants preferred building a new high school on the current Hillsboro campus. Based on this scenario, the projected cost of transportation for students from the three districts would be $43,762. Without Panhandle, transporting Litchfield students to Hillsboro would cost $21,859.
After presenting a myriad of statistics, the impartial group of professors made a recommendation to merge the Hillsboro and Litchfield districts into one. Phillips said that Panhandle has been involved in similar studies in the past without following through with reorganization.
Despite the recommendation to build in Hillsboro, Mulch said the county commission still believes it would be in the best interest of the communities to build a new high school between Hillsboro and Litchfield. Under this plan, the elementary and junior high schools would remain in their respective communities.
The next step in the process is for each of the school boards to decide whether or not to send a petition to Regional Superintendent Julie Wollerman. If the districts choose to pursue reorganization, Wollerman would set up a hearing, and then make a decision as to whether or not to send the petition to Illinois' State Superintendent. If so, the State Superintendent would review the petition and then approve or deny it. If approved, a referendum would be placed on the ballot, and citizens of each district involved would vote on the matter.
What decision the school board members should make is entirely subjective, but it is this reporter's opinion that trust is going to be crucial moving forward. First, citizens of each district involved must trust their elected school board members to make a decision that is in the best interest of the students.
Second, the individual communities must trust each other if consolidation is the agreed-upon decision. If the districts were to consolidate, an entirely new board would be elected. Those board members, according to Dr. Phillips, would be elected at-large, which means one community could have more representation on the board than another. It would also be up to the new board to decide whether to build a new high school, as well as select the new facility's location.
This process has only just begun, and it could be over quickly if the boards choose not to pursue it. However, with a bevy of information now available, the people await a decision on what is next.
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