District 46 talks consolidation

PRAIRIE GROVE – With enrollment continuing to decline, District 46 may take another look at consolidation.

The school board discussed the possibility at its meeting Tuesday evening after board member Khushali Shah asked that it be put on the agenda.

Shah had been looking at enrollment data last month and started wondering what would happen to extracurriculars if enrollment continued to drop.

She pointed to the one grade level that has about 70 students in it. About half of those kids would be girls, and perhaps only 10 percent of them would be interested in volleyball.

A school can’t have an eighth-grade volleyball team with only 3.5 girls on it, Shah said.

“After-school activities are one facet in keeping kids engaged,” she said. “Even during developing the master schedule, people were asking, ‘Why can’t we have this? And why can’t we have this?’ ”

A decade ago, District 46’s one elementary school and one junior high school had a collective 1,018 students, according to data submitted to the Illinois State Board of Education. In 2012, enrollment was 915 students.

The board plans to revisit the issue in the spring when it starts its budgeting process, Superintendent Lynette Zimmer said.

One possibility for consolidation would be with Crystal Lake Elementary District 47, Zimmer said, but that would require interest from officials there as well.

A feasibility study would cost $14,000 to $16,000, but there are state grants available that the district can apply for, she said.

The district has done a study in the past, but consolidation “didn’t make sense at the time,” Zimmer said.

Part of the reason consolidation didn’t move ahead the last time was because the district with the lower tax rate would have to agree to adopt the other district’s higher tax rate, board President Margaret Ponga said.

And while she thinks it’s important to prepare for the future, she said she’s not sure whether it’s realistic at this time and in this economy to expect some taxpayers to approve a higher tax rate.

Plus, Ponga added, there are avenues other than consolidation to make sure District 46 has good extracurriculars.

“It’s about what the voters will agree to,” Ponga said. “That’s the end point.”

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