Emmons officials reject talk of consolidation with Grass Lake

Emmons School District 33 officials have turned down a request to investigate merging with another Antioch-area district.

During a board meeting Thursday night, District 33 President Laurie Christophersen and Superintendent Eileen Conway said they looked into the appeal from Grass Lake Elementary District 36 but were advised by their attorney that consolidation is an issue for voters, not school boards or administrators.

It's up to interested residents, Conway said, to gather signatures on a petition and put a consolidation referendum on a ballot, and it'd be up to the voters in both districts to settle the issue.

No such petition exists, Christophersen told the roughly 40 people who'd gathered in the Emmons gym for the meeting.

"Consequently, there is nothing for this school board to do," she said.

District 36 and District 33 both are one-school organizations serving parts of the Antioch-area community. Grass Lake has 188 students in prekindergarten through eighth grade, while Emmons has 322 students in kindergarten through the eighth grade. The buildings are less than 3 miles apart.

Last month, Grass Lake Superintendent Terry O'Brien formally requested Emmons officials consider forming a joint exploratory committee that would review the pros and cons of consolidating. He was prompted by residents who wanted officials with the two districts to explore consolidation, primarily as a way to save money.

During Thursday's board meeting, residents of both districts spoke about the issue. Some asked questions, some spoke in favor of consolidation and some vehemently opposed it.

"We need to make sure we are keeping our Emmons students first," said Tim Babin, president of the Emmons parent-teacher organization. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

After the meeting, O'Brien said he was "extremely pleased" Emmons officials took his request seriously and spent time researching the issue.

The Grass Lake school board meets Monday, and O'Brien said he'll tell his panel of the Emmons stance.

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