Huge rural district faces tough questions on June 8

A press release from St. Louis County Schools about the board’s crucial June 8 vote on a facilities plan for this struggling rural school district:

ISD 2142 school board to choose plan for realigning district school locations on June 8; public to vote on the plan in the fall

After more than a year of study and community input from many of the school district’s communities and townships, the board of St. Louis County Schools, ISD 2142, will vote on a plan to realign where schools are located, during a school board meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, June 8, in the Cherry School gym. The plan, which will include closing some schools and building new schools in central locations between several communities, will then be put up for a public vote on a bond referendum in the fall.

“For several years the board has had to make major cuts in an effort to continue operating every school in the district, but even those reductions were not enough to continue operating all the existing schools into the future,” said Board Chair Bob Larson. “The reality now is that the only way the district can provide the quality learning opportunities our students need and deserve in the 21st century is to close some schools and centrally locate new ones.

“Our current configuration is unworkable and no other option meets the overall needs of the district while remaining financially sustainable. I’m proud of how the community and board identified a good solution, because if we don’t take this step, we will need to seriously consider consolidation or dissolution and attachment with any number of our neighboring districts.”

The plan up for a school board vote on June 8 is:
-Close the AlBrook and Cotton schools and construct a new school near the center of an area that would serve the Alborn-Brookston-Cotton-Meadowlands attendance areas.

-Remodeling of the Cherry School which will now serve the Cherry-North Cotton-Makinen attendance areas.

-Close Cook and Orr schools and construct a new school near the Hwy #53 and Hwy #73 junction that will serve both attendance areas.

Remodeling of the Babbitt and Tower schools. Babbitt will remain a PK-12 school and Tower would become a PK-6 school with the potential Charter secondary school at this site.

“We know it’s difficult to lose any school, but this long-term solution provides a compromise that ensures the young people of our area receive the highest quality education possible,” said District Superintendent Charles Rick. “Those who have taken the time to understand the detailed planning being done by the board have come away excited, because our in-depth research combined with community input have allowed us to develop a compromised solution that enhances educational
opportunities, extra-curricular opportunities and classroom technology.”

Rick added that this restructuring will still maintain a tax burden that would continue to be in the lower 25 percent of the 19 neighboring districts. By restructuring this way, the district will be reducing 26 percent of its operational cost expenditures and 22 percent of its staffing cost, allowing the district to more efficiently use its most valuable resource: teachers.

Rick said he and the school board have been pleased by the great input from parents, principals, teachers and others throughout the district in developing a solid plan for the future.

“People now realize that we’ve run out of band-aid solutions, and that our district truly would have to dissolve if we don’t realign the number and locations of our schools,” added Rick. “It’s a tough thing to do, but the community knows we’re all in this together, and it has rallied around this to ensure current and future students benefit.”

This year’s (2008-2009) adopted budget shortfall is projected to be $1.5 million. Without adoption of the proposed plan, the projected shortfall would be near $4.1 million (as shown below) for budget year 2011-2012, which would place the district into statutory operating debt (SOD).

“We encourage anyone who’s interested to attend the June 8 board meeting and share their thoughts,” said Board Chair Larson. “But that won’t be the final opportunity people have. After a single plan is approved by the board, we’ll be out in the community during the summer and fall to answer any question people have prior to the vote in the fall.”


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    Blogger PS (PSanafter-thought) said…

    Thanks for posting the whole thing. I’m out of town on family business, so it is hard to keep current. Even though my kids have already graduated from ISD 2142, I feel a strong obligation to support our schools. At the meeting in my town, there were respectful comments and criticisms. The most passionate speakers were some in the middle aged and oldster set who know that our schools have gone way down in what can be offered due to declining enrollment. But as I’ve commented before, a new school doesn’t make for a better education unless the program and staff are also good. If ISD 2142 can put more students in a school, then we can recover some of our programs that have been lost and, hopefully, stop losing so many students to neighboring districts.

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