The governing board of the Special Education District of Lake County has approved a plan for three member districts to withdraw from the cooperative agency in 2015.
The agreement now must be approved individually by the three school boards that made the request and by the Lake County regional board of education.
The 27-1 vote by the SEDOL board, which consists of representatives from the agency's member districts, eliminates a key hurdle for Stevenson High School District 125, Kildeer-Countryside District 96 and Lincolnshire-Prairie View District 103.
Districts 96 and 103 are feeder schools for Stevenson High.
The SEDOL board's support for the agreement is a good sign the regional board will approve the plan, Stevenson spokesman Jim Conrey said.
"We think we made a strong case for our withdrawal," he said.
Last year, officials with the three districts announced plans to leave SEDOL, which provides special-education services to students from across the county, because they want to supply those services themselves.
Few students from those three districts have used SEDOL services or attended SEDOL schools in recent years, officials said. Despite the lack of use, the districts have been paying to be part of the collective.
The three boards are expected to vote on the agreement in March. The regional board could approve the deal in April.
The proposed withdrawal agreement has several stipulations for the districts, such as:
• The three districts will remain full SEDOL members through June 30, 2015.
• The districts will contribute to SEDOL 80 percent of federally mandated special-education funding for the 2014-15 term.
• The districts will relinquish any claims to SEDOL property.
The districts had wanted to withdraw from SEDOL this summer.
Putting the separation on hold for a year "will make for a smooth transition for everybody," District 103 Superintendent Scott Warren said.
The departures will cost SEDOL about $2 million in annual revenue. The one-year delay actually helps SEDOL with its finances, Superintendent Tom Moline said, because an unusually high number of employees are expected to retire by July 2015.
Those veteran employees will be replaced by less-experienced workers who will be paid less, Moline said.
Still, service and staff cuts may be needed after the districts withdraw, Moline said. The agency could investigate ways to increase revenue to cover the loss, he said.
"But we've got a year to deal with it now," Moline said.
Founded in 1960, SEDOL serves about 1,300 students from 35 districts. It has six specialized schools to handle a variety of educational needs.
The member schools cover tuition, maintenance costs, transportation fees and other expenses.
Only two other districts have withdrawn from SEDOL. Barrington Unit District 220 split from the consortium in 1999, and Lake Zurich Unit District 95 withdrew in 2010.