Mt. Vernon Register-News

September 25, 2013

Woodlawn schools to proceed with consolidation

By TRAVIS MORSE travis.morse@register-news.com
The Register-News

---- — WOODLAWN — Woodlawn school officials are moving forward with a consolidation of their two districts, after a public hearing on the topic Monday night.

About seven residents attended the hearing, one of whom, Tom Hassler, addressed the board.

Most of the questions raised at that time had to do with the consolidation process and the potential benefits of merging, said David Larkin, superintendent of the Woodlawn school districts.

After the public was heard from, both school boards voted Monday to proceed with the consolidation. The hearing was considered a joint meeting of the two boards.

“I’m very pleased,” said Tom Mears, president of the Woodlawn Community High School District 205 Board of Education. “It’s a good way to keep both school districts up and running.”

The districts in question are Woodlawn Community High School District 205 and Woodlawn Community Consolidated School District 4. Each has its own school board, budget, service contracts, and agreements.

With a consolidation, these entities would be combined into one unit district with a single school board overseeing it.

The hope is a consolidation would improve efficiency, reduce costs, and improve education by creating more continuity and eliminating duplications of effort.

“We’re excited about moving forward with it,” Larkin said. “I’d say the fact that there wasn’t any opposition was a good sign.”

But before a consolidation can occur, several requirements have to be met.

The first step is to apply for a waiver from state legislation requiring consolidated school districts to have similar boundaries. Right now, the two Woodlawn districts have their own separate boundaries and school officials want that to continue.

Both school boards have approved the waiver application. The document will now have to be approved by the Illinois Legislature and be signed by the Governor.

If a waiver is granted, additional public hearings would be held. Then the consolidation issue would go before the voters in both districts.

Officials don’t expect the issue to be on the ballot until at least November 2014.

Judging from Monday’s public hearing and the lack of any vocal opposition, area residents seem to be supportive of the consolidation, Mears said.

“I’m pretty sure they’re behind the whole thing as long as it’s for the benefit of the schools and the (community),” Mears said.