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Woodstock School District 200 moves forward with committee recommendations to cut costs

WOODSTOCK – The Woodstock School District 200 Board won’t vote on potential school closures until next year, but it already has made strides in completing other committee recommendations to cut costs.

The board recently voted to end an annex lease and sell its administrative building, both on Judd Street, in accordance with committee recommendations. Both spaces were used as office space.

The board has been considering cost-cutting measures since the Facilities Review Committee brought forth recommendations earlier this year.  

The committee was formed at the beginning of the 2016 school year to figure out ways the district could save money and better use its facilities. Some of the district buildings have expensive maintenance and life-safety needs, along with empty, unused space. The committee recommended several changes, including getting rid of an administrative annex lease, selling the Judd Street administrative building and potentially closing Dean Street Elementary School.

Closure of the Clay Academy building also could be on the table. The special needs program that Clay Academy operates could move to another building in that case.

District 200 has fewer students now than in previous years, and its buildings have extra space. The district built new schools when it was expecting enrollment to increase. Creekside Middle School and Prairiewood Elementary School opened in 2007, followed by Woodstock North High School during the recession in 2008, when several Woodstock-area housing developments were stalled.

Nearly $3 million in annual operating savings could come from possible closings and consolidations, according to estimates from district documents, and another $6 million could come from capital improvement savings over 10 years.

District 200 officials have moved forward with two committee recommendations. The board voted to end the annex lease at 224 W. Judd St. in September, and it voted to sell its administrative building across the street, at 227 W. Judd St., in December, according to district documents.

“I think the board has really taken steps,” Superintendent Mike Moan said. “The benefit is taking what the committee recommended and putting it into real savings. ... It makes a lot of sense to take actions on things that have the least impact on education and students.”

The district will save $66,000 annually from eliminating the lease. The Judd Street building is listed for sale for $540,000. The district bought the 6,481-square-foot building in the late 1980s for $365,000, according to the district.

Under Illinois school code regulations, the district must publish a legal notice about the sale for three weeks and accept any offer that meets the minimum bid price. If it receives no bids, the board can hire a real estate broker to market the property, according to district documents.

About two dozen staff work out of the building and will relocate to empty space at Woodstock North High School.

“We are trying to trim away things when we can make do in other areas,” board President Carl Gilmore said. “By getting rid of the building, we will realize something from the sale and trim our annual maintenance costs.”

The board last discussed potential plans to close either Dean Street Elementary School or Clay Academy in October, and it decided not to vote on the matter until 2018. The board has yet to set a date for the discussion and subsequent vote, Gilmore said.

“There is nothing going on behind closed doors,” he said. “Right now, we are in a hiatus to let board members satisfy themselves with the information they need to make the decision.”

Community members also are able to provide feedback and information to board members during this time, he said.

Gilmore said that he wants to be confident that the matter has been examined from all sides.

“I want to make sure that when we are picking an option – whatever we choose – it’s an option that is the best option,” he said. “I want to make sure all options have been considered and that we have looked at the pros and cons before any decisions are made.”

Gilmore said he wants to take both financial and community effects into account.

Dean Street Elementary has 336 students. If the district opts to shut down the school, its students would go to one of District 200’s other elementary schools – likely either Westwood or Olsen. Proposed job eliminations for that plan would save the district $530,000, according to district documents.

There is no apparent timeline for when the board will reconsider the closures.

“The board is taking its opportunity to take a deep dive and analyze the options available to them,” Moan said. “It’s an open dialogue with the board right now to take the opportunity to ask the questions that they have. At some point, we will compile the questions to get answered, but no administrative recommendation is imminent.”

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