CAHOKIA — School board members voted late Monday to close three schools to save jobs as well as sports, music, art and physical education programs.
However, school leaders said the plans hinge on Gov. Pat Quinn agreeing to pay for education at the level recommended by state lawmakers.
Slated to be closed are three specialty schools: the Jerome Early Childhood Center, Estelle Sauget Freshman Academy and the high school portion of the Cahokia School of Choice.
Cahokia Superintendent Art Ryan said the district is counting on 89 percent money from the state for the school year. With that money and closing the schools, the district can maintain its sports, music, art and PE programs and bring back some of the 70 employees given lay-off notices in February.
Ryan said the bottom line was that the district had to cut $1.5 million from its budget.
"I would rather close some facilities and continue to offer programs to teach rather than take programs from kids to come up with the money," Ryan said.
Board members made the decisions Monday after a 90-minute closed session. Some parents attended.
"They said they were happy and thanked us for keeping sports and the other programs," Ryan said.
The schools closing are the Jerome Early Childhood Center, 1820 Jerome Lane, the high school portion of the Cahokia School of Choice, which is located across the street, and the Estelle Sauget Freshman Academy, which is down Jerome Lane in a building attached to the board office building and adjacent to the high school.
After the school board announced the proposed cuts in February, Ryan said it became a major concern that the district would lose students if it eliminated the programs, especially sports.
Leslie Harder, president of Cahokia Federation of Teachers Local 1272, welcomed the news.
"I feel good about the board's decisions. I think they made the best choices. But even though I think they did everything right, I am disappointed for the staff that was in those buildings," Harder said.
She said the Jerome Early Childhood staff had been in their building for decades.
"Honestly, though, I do feel it was the best decision for educational purposes of the children in the district," she said.
Also Monday, Cahokia School Board member Clinton Lovett Jr. resigned to take a seat as a Centreville alderman. Bernadette Anderson was appointed to replace him.
Cahokia has about 4,200 students in preschool through high school, about 600 employees and operates on a $60 million annual budget.
Contact reporter Carolyn P. Smith at 618-239-2503.