By TESA GLASS
MT. VERNON — —
A hearing on consolidating three county schools will be held Thursday.
“There was a study done earlier to consolidate five schools,” explained Ron Daniels, Hamilton Jefferson County Regional Superintendent of Schools. “Three of those schools have petitioned to consolidate and work together to form one school district.”
Those schools, Dodds Grade School, Ina Grade School and Opdyke-Belle Rive Grade School, have already sent the official petition to the ROE for Daniels’ consideration. The other two schools who were included in a consolidation feasibility study but are not part of the consolidation petition are Bethel Grade School and McClellan Grade School.
After receiving the study, a Committee of 10 was formed, as allowed by state statute, consisting of representatives from each of the school districts. The Committee will present its information during the public hearing on Thursday, and residents will be able to present verbal and/or written testimony during the hearing, according to information from Daniels.
The hearing will be held 7 p.m. Thursday at Dodds Grade School in the gym.
According to information released at the time the feasibility study was completed earlier this year, each school district petitioning for consolidation has had a decrease in enrollment. Last year, Ina had 110 students; Dodds had 120 students and Opdyke-Belle Rive had 184 total students.
“This is the opportunity for people to speak out in favor of consolidation or against the petition,” Daniels said.
Daniels said after the public hearing, he will make the decision of whether to approve the petition, which will then go to the Illinois State Superintendent of Schools for consideration.
“Hopefully, by the end of December, the petition will be completed, approved and can be submitted to the County Clerk to be placed on the ballot for the April election,” Daniels said. “Each of the school districts have asked for it to be placed on the ballot for the next election.”
Before making his decision to forward the petition to the State Superintendent of Schools, Daniels will take into consideration the school needs and conditions of the affected districts, the best interest of the schools of the area, and the best interests and educational welfare of the pupils, according to information from the ROE.
There are some incentives that are offered by the state to those districts which consolidate — such as up to $3 million — and other incentives which would last for four years, according to information released during an informational meeting in September.
If the petition is granted and the referendum is placed on the April ballot, voters would determine if consolidation would move forward.