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updated: 3/2/2012 10:41 AM

Cary Dist. 26, Fox River Grove Dist. 3 to research consolidation

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School boards in Cary Elementary District 26 and Fox River Grove Elementary District 3 have begun a preliminary discussion on joining the two districts.

Superintendents have been directed to search for a consultant to complete a feasibility study to determine if consolidation makes sense for both districts.

They both feed into Cary-Grove High School, and enrollment declines in the districts are projected through 2015, district leaders said.

"We only send kids to that one high school, so from that point of view we are very similar districts," said Christopher Spoerl, president of the District 26 school board. "We are very similarly performing districts, and there seemed to be ... a savings through economies of scale and the elimination of duplication of functions."

Tim Mahaffy, superintendent of District 3, said the cost of the study is estimated at $15,000 to $20,000, part of which is eligible for reimbursement from the state.

To receive reimbursement, Mahaffy said, the study must take into consideration criteria including transportation costs, course offerings in each district, age and state of buildings, enrollment and remodeling that may be needed.

"Part of what the study would do is give recommendations," Mahaffy said. "And there are certain things we need to look at like financial stability and great academic programs. The kids always come first. If there is an adverse effect on either school district, I cannot see it getting approved."

Although classrooms in District 26 are becoming increasingly crowded due to staffing limitations, Spoerl said enrollment is decreasing.

Meanwhile classrooms in District 3 are getting smaller, too.

District 26's enrollment at its three elementary schools and junior high school campus is estimated to be 2,600 students in the 2012-2013 school year. In addition, about 500 students are expected to attend District 3, which has one elementary school and one middle school.

A presentation to the District 26 board in October 2011 shows enrollment dropping from 3,649 students in 2005 to 2,801 in 2012. The same document projects enrollment will dip by another 450 students before the 2015 school year.

In District 3, enrollment has decreased by 189 students in the past decade. The 2011-2012 school year was the first time since 2002-2003 that the district added a student.

Mahaffy said the district does not have data on enrollment projections.

Both boards are expected to take action on selecting a consultant at the respective March 19 board meetings.

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