Lake County's regional board of education soon could decide if Stevenson High School can withdraw from a cooperative agency for special education.
Stevenson officials want to leave the Special Education District of Lake County because they can afford to offer the services locally.
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If the request is granted, more of Stevenson's special-education students will attend classes at the Lincolnshire school rather than at SEDOL's specialized, off-site locations.
"The idea behind a special education consortium is to provide programs and services to school districts that can't afford to do so themselves," Stevenson spokesman Jim Conrey told the Daily Herald in an email. "The money we would pay to SEDOL can be better spent in our own building, on our own teaching staff, which is focusing on our students."
Stevenson officials want to detach from SEDOL in summer 2014. So do two elementary districts that feed into Stevenson -- Kildeer Countryside District 96 and Lincolnshire-Prairie View District 103.
The regional board will discuss Stevenson's request when it meets at 7 p.m. Jan. 6 at the College of Lake County in Grayslake. Representatives from Stevenson and SEDOL will make their cases.
If more debate is needed, a second meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Jan. 13 at the University Center in Grayslake.
The regional board will consider the requests from District 96 and District 103 at a later time, Conrey said.
Founded in 1960, SEDOL serves about 1,300 students from 35 districts. The goal was to help schools that couldn't afford their own programs educate kids with disabilities.
Today, SEDOL has six specialized schools to handle a variety of educational needs. The member schools cover tuition, maintenance costs, transportation fees and other expenses.
Stevenson has been developing its own expansive special education program over the past eight years, Conrey said. Earlier this year, a new $3 million special-education wing opened in the school's east building.
"We think we have some of the best special education teachers and staff in the country, and we no longer need to be part of SEDOL," Conrey said.
About 20 of Stevenson's nearly 3,800 students receive services from SEDOL. That total is expected to drop to zero after the 2014-15 term, Conrey said.
And yet, participation in the group costs the school about $3.4 million annually, officials have said.
Stevenson officials would rather spend that cash on its own teaching staff and programs.
"Over the past several years, Stevenson has developed and incorporated on-site programming and supports that exceed programming options available through SEDOL," Conrey said. "We're already doing everything SEDOL can do, with only a few minor exceptions."
Only two of Kildeer Countryside's roughly 3,100 students are in SEDOL programs, at a cost of about $1 million.
No District 103 students participate in SEDOL this year, but membership still costs about $300,000, officials have said.
SEDOL Superintendent Tom Moline has said the agency can't rapidly reduce services to offset the revenue that would be lost if the three districts withdraw at once.
The agency's remaining members would have to pick up the slack and pay more, he said.
Only two districts ever have withdrawn from the group.
Barrington Unit District 220 split from the consortium in 1999. Lake Zurich Unit District 95 went its own way in 2010.