Alden-Hebron District 19 considering consolidation, community survey plan after failed referendum

Board considers consolidation, community engagement survey

Teachers from Alden-Hebron School District 19 schools attended the Board of Education Meeting on Wednesday in Hebron to learn of any new plans of school consolidation.
Teachers from Alden-Hebron School District 19 schools attended the Board of Education Meeting on Wednesday in Hebron to learn of any new plans of school consolidation.

Alden-Hebron School District 19 is moving forward after its failed referendum.

Voters overwhelmingly voted down a request from the district to issue $20.3 million in bonds for a new facility for its middle and high school students. District officials want to find out why the measure was rejected and what options would be more palatable to residents.

The district’s Board of Education has sent letters to neighboring school districts – including Woodstock District 200, Harvard District 50, Richmond-Burton District 157 and Nippersink District 2 – to see if there is an interest in consolidation.

“The board is considering doing a comprehensive study following state guidelines to impartially show the pros and cons of such a move,” Superintendent Debbie Ehlenburg said in a letter to the districts. “The first step is finding a district that would be interested in pursuing further information about consolidation/reorganization and share the reorganization feasibility study costs with us.”

If none of the neighboring districts are interested in the idea, the option is moot, Ehlenburg said.

Harvard District 50 is in the process of completing its own building utilization and future growth studies, which take precedence over talk of a merge, District 50 spokesman Guy Clark said.

The item currently is not set to be placed on an agenda for the school board to formally consider, he said.

Woodstock District 200’s Board of Education discussed the idea at a recent meeting and was open to some form of collaboration. Those options could include District 19 shutting down its high school and sending its students to Woodstock North High School, or Woodstock District 200 taking on all of the District 19 students in Woodstock facilities.

The most recent middle and high school enrollment total in District 19 was 211. The elementary school had an enrollment of 218, according to the Illinois State Board of Education.

District 200 officials said they weren’t interested in a “straight” consolidation.

“We don’t need more small schools. ... Consolidation means we take over their property,” Moan said. “That is not advantageous for our tax base.”

Richmond-Burton District 157’s board doesn’t want to share the cost of the feasibility study but could be open to future discussion, Superintendent Tom Lind said.

Lind is superintendent of both District 157 and Nippersink District 2, which is composed of a grade, elementary and middle school.

The discussion of consolidating District 2 and District 157 has come up before but costs were prohibitive, he said.

“Going further with Hebron, we are always looking at what is best for the schools,” Lind said. “But we also have to consider the cost of it.”

The discussion is on Nippersink District 2’s next agenda, he said.

District 19 also is considering paying a consultant to launch a community engagement series to explore the different options with taxpayers and hear residents’ opinions.

The referendum District 19 residents rejected in April could have resulted in a person who owns a $150,000 home seeing the school district portion of their property tax bill go up by $913. About 77%, or 824 voters, said no to the proposal.

“We have to see what would be in the best interest of the kids but also get feedback from the community,” Ehlenburg said. “The board is pretty open.”

Two board members will meet with different companies that could provide those services including Dash J Consulting LLC, which offered to complete a single-phase study that would review the district’s facilities and referendum plans, develop a new strategy and timeline, host community forums and develop communications materials.

The company would charge $7,500 for the project. The board also will consider working with the Illinois Association of School Boards: Connecting with the Community division on a similar engagement plan.

IASB could develop facilitate focus groups and community forums, and create the agendas and questions for those meetings but wouldn’t actually complete a survey, according to district documents.

IASB charges $1,000 for daytime events and $600 for evening events, according to district documents.

A decision on how to proceed will take place at a future meeting.

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