The Morris Community Shared Services Committee discussed consolidation of schools in Morris Wednesday afternoon. The committee then decided to talk about conducting a feasibility study with the public schools' boards of education.
Since MCSSC last met, the Classrooms First Commission in Springfield, lead by Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon, gave 23 recommendations to Governor Pat Quinn's office to reduce education spending throughout the state.
Consolidation was discussed by Classrooms First and it was decided there was not a "one-size-fits-all" model for school districts. Consolidation was not the answer statewide.
But consolidation has not been looked into in Morris since 2006.
"We can speculate, but until we have a feasibility study, we don't know the answer to (what would consolidation look like in Morris)," said Morris Elementary School District 54 Superintendent Teri Shaw. "The only way we would know what it would look like would be if all the school boards were willing to participate in a feasibility study. The school boards need to have those conversations."
In 2005, the Morris Community Foundation offered to fund a feasibility study to see if consolidation would be effective in Morris, Shaw said. At that time, the Board of Education at Nettle Creek School District 24C opted out.
Then in 2006, the city of Morris was willing to fund the study. At that time, the Board of Education at Saratoga School District 60C opted out.
Lou Klusak, board member in District 54, asked Saratoga Superintendent Kathy Perry why the board decided against the study six years ago.
"The board voted," Perry said.
She said the people who were strongly opposed to doing the survey in the Saratoga district voiced their opinions to the board at the time and the board then voted against participation.
"Has the climate changed at all?" Klusak asked Perry.
She said it had not been discussed since then and all new board members had been seated.
Klusak suggested all of the boards discuss the idea of a feasibility study.
"If we find out there is opposition, school boards vote 'no we don't want to do that,' at least we know where we stand," he said.
The three superintendents present Wednesday - Shaw, Perry and Dr. Pat Halloran from Morris Community High School District 101 - and board members from their schools, agreed to take the idea of doing the study back to their boards and find out what thoughts are out there today.
Nettle Creek School was not represented at Wednesday's meeting.
Shaw said the cost of the feasibility survey in 2005 and 2006 ranged from $10,000 to $15,000. She was not sure what it would cost today, however.
"Even if boards did this feasibility study and it came back as a good thing, (consolidation) is not a board decision," Perry said. "It would be (left up to) a vote by the community."
Dist 54 board member Scot Hastings reiterated that the feasibility study would only be the gathering of information.
"It's just information," Shaw agreed.
New high school board member and former Nettle Creek board member, Karen Meucci, said she could not speak for the current board at Nettle Creek, but remembered one reason the former board at Nettle Creek was against the study and consolidation was because that school feeds into three different high schools, not just Morris High School.
Nettle Creek students feed into Morris, Seneca and Newark high schools.
She was going to bring the information discussed back to Nettle Creek's board president following Wednesday's meeting, however.
MCSSC members were to bring back their board member's thoughts on doing the feasibility study to the next committee meeting on Sept. 5.