O'Fallon Progress

Is school consolidation a dead issue in O’Fallon?

At a recent O’Fallon School District 90 school board meeting, several parents and citizens brought up the issue of school district consolidation in O’Fallon.

Based on that feedback, District 90 said it is open to exploring consolidation.

But it now appears the issue is being put on the back burner — again.

District 90 Superintendent Carrie Hruby said on Thursday morning she has still not received any feedback from Shiloh District 85 and Central School District 104 in O’Fallon, since its board met Aug. 16 and agreed to discuss the possibility of sending another letter pursuing the idea at next Tuesday’s meeting.

District 90 board president John Wagnon said on Thursday morning he has no plans of writing any such letter.

He, however, said he has spoken with some District 90 board members, and residents of the other school districts and their respective school boards about consolidating.

Wagnon believes if he were to wrote letter now, it might only “confuse” matters if some of District 90 members oppose sending the letter.

He, however, believes the other districts are “fully aware” of District 90’s interest in pursuing the idea, which has been considered multiple times since the early 1970s.

The Central School Board on Aug. 8 also discussed consolidating at its monthly meeting.

“There are no current plans to discuss consolidation with District 90,” Central’s board meeting minutes stated. “If a school district contacts (District 104), then the board will decide if they want to investigate.”

District 85 Superintendent Dale Sauer couldn’t be reached for comment late Thursday morning.

Instead, Wagnon said he is now encouraging residents to ask questions about consolidating with their school boards.

He said he is also open to the idea of having a Committee of 10 being formed to explore the possibility of consolidating.

The Committee of Ten is a committee of 10 people who act on behalf of all the petitioners. They may be school board members, people who work in the school system, or any other resident voter of the affected districts, as long as the individual qualifies as a petitioner and signs the petition.

District 90 earlier wrote a letter to Central District 104, O’Fallon District 203 and Shiloh District 85 about three years ago to see if they might be interested in helping fund a consolidation study.

District 203 replied to District 90 with a letter of its own in September 2013. At that time, OTHS was seeking additional information “before just jumping into the financial cost of a consolidation study.

“At the time, District 90 did not provide clear direction on its intent or interest in consolidation, so it would have been irresponsible for our board to agree to anything without additional clarification,” District 203 Superintendent Darcy Benway wrote in an Aug. 18 email.

“District 203 is open to consolidation, but believes the questions outlined in September 2013 response letter to District 90 are still valid and must be addressed. OTHS will always consider initiatives that improve student learning, increase student opportunities or better school operations.”

School district reorganization has been around since 1899, with the first consolidation petition in 1903. Although different needs have driven reorganization in the past, the critical areas of concern today are the educational opportunities reorganization provides students and the fiscal viability of school districts to provide the highest quality educational opportunities.

From Fiscal Year 1984 to FY 2014, the number of individual school districts in Illinois has decreased from 1,008 to 861, a reduction of 14.6 percent, according to the Illinois State Board of Education.