The O’Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce is building an advisory panel to spearhead the process of getting a school consolidation study done. All those considered for the panel thus far are free from any political offices, said Paul Evans, chamber president.
“A number of people were interviewed based upon suggestions received. An effort has been made to reach out to individuals of different backgrounds, but no currently elected public officials have been asked. Some of the individuals have prior school board experience, but none are currently serving on a school board,” Evans said.
All four local school boards — Shiloh 85, Central 104, OTHS 203, and O’Fallon 90 — have agreed on conducting a school consolidation study to see what options might be viable.
“The consensus was that this is a topic of great interest in our community. A feasibility study can and should provide answers to the many questions about how a possible consolidation of two or more districts would impact the community,” said Carrie Hruby, District 90 superintendent.
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All the parties also previously concurred that the chamber would be a good neutral third party to help explore the idea.
“The Chamber of Commerce is doing a wonderful job facilitating the efforts to explore and study school consolidation,” said Darcy Benway, O’Fallon Township High School District 203 superintendent.
“I believe this advisory group has the ability to guide a consolidation study that will give neutral results,” said Dawn Elser, Central School District 104 superintendent.
The chamber’s panel members will have a big job head of them, Evans reported to the joint Building Educational Success Together Committee at its meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 29 at Shiloh Middle School.
“It is the chamber’s understanding that the State Board of Education has a number of items that are to be examined, and those are available currently from the State Board of Education,” Evans said.
The panel will also decide on the firm that will conduct the study and at what cost, and find the money to get the job done.
“The chamber is playing a big part in guiding the fundraising efforts and disseminating the findings of a consolidation study, but they will step back to allow the advisory committee to make decisions when it comes to it,” Elser said.
The study is projected to cost anywhere from $12,000 to $25,000, depending how deep researchers dig into their topic. So far, the city O’Fallon and village Shiloh have both committed funds to help pay for the study — O’Fallon, $7,500, and Shiloh, $5,000, respectively. However, it’s likely more money will be needed to do a comprehensive job. Due to the many budget constraints with which school are currently faced, it was initially hoped the individual districts would not have to contribute any cash to the study. But that might not be possible.
“The chamber has requested that the schools again speak with their boards of education regarding a possible district contribution to the study,” Benway said.
“Monetary contributions from the school boards are being requested to help offset the costs of the study,” said Dale Sauer, Shiloh School District 85 superintendent.
Hruby said prior to the municipalities committing funding, her district was willing to contribute funding to the effort, as long as other districts did, too.
BEST Committee will meet again at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 3 at Central Elementary School, 309 Hartman Lane in O’Fallon.
It is not known when the chamber’s advisory panel might hold its first meeting.
“These individuals are volunteers, and it may be a while before they can convene and constitute themselves. It’s desired that it be before the next BEST meeting, but that might not happen just due to the logistics of assembling a group of people,” Evans said.