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updated: 12/29/2010 5:47 PM

Combining school districts topic for New Year

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Consolidating districts or sharing services to save money in the Mundelein area are possibilities expected to be discussed early next year by local school officials.

The process, even with open arms acceptance, could take years, but Mundelein Elementary District 75 wants to at least consider the possibilities with its neighbors.

"It's exploratory. We've kind of raised the question with our surrounding districts," Superintendent Cynthia Heidorn said.

The thought came from parents last summer during a workshop regarding long term solutions for the state's financial problems, Heidorn said.

Sharing services with other districts also is a consideration, she added.

District 75, for example, is looking for help in certain areas such as dealing with contracts and bids, as Luann Mathis, the former director of finance and operations, left and was not replaced.

Heidorn said state law changed a few years ago making it easier for districts to consolidate, but it's a detailed process that still would take years.

She said she was contacting speakers to discuss details at an upcoming annual joint meeting involving District 75, Hawthorn Elementary District 73, Diamond Lake Elementary District 76, Fremont Elementary District 79 and Mundelein High School District 120.

"We want to understand what those choices are and how they apply to us to see if they're even worth investing in for a study," Heidorn said.

She also will draft an agenda to send to other superintendents for feedback.

District 76 Superintendent Roger Prosise said the idea of consolidation grew from a discussion of shared services, such as transportation or payroll, but it isn't new.

"I'm in my 13th year (and) this isn't the first time it's come up," he said. "Everything seems to boil down to finances and financial conditions of the districts involved."

Districts 75 last spring released more than a dozen teachers and other staffers for the current school year. The situation isn't as dire this year, but long term planning remains an issue because of declining enrollment.

District 76 could face significant cuts for 2011-12 depending on the level to which it wants to retain its fund balance, or the amount of cash in the bank, Prosise said.

The school board at some point will host a community forum on the matter, Prosise said.

Consolidation has not been discussed by the District 79 school board. However, shared services, such as in the area of English language learners, could be a future consideration, according to Margaret Van Duch, the district's spokeswoman.

District 73 Superintendent Susan Zook said the board has not officially discussed consolidation, although a Mundelein High School survey of feeder schools was mentioned at a recent meeting for informational purposes.

Consolidation and shared services topped the feeder schools' list of several possible subjects for a late winter or early spring joint meeting, she added.