Will two Antioch-area school districts merge?

  • Grass Lake Elementary District 36 Superintendent Terry O'Brien has requested officials in neighboring Emmons Elementary District 33 help investigate a possible merger.

    Grass Lake Elementary District 36 Superintendent Terry O'Brien has requested officials in neighboring Emmons Elementary District 33 help investigate a possible merger.

  • Emmons Elementary District 33 Superintendent Eileen Conway said the school board will discuss the possible formation of a committee to study consolidation Oct. 20.

    Emmons Elementary District 33 Superintendent Eileen Conway said the school board will discuss the possible formation of a committee to study consolidation Oct. 20.

 
 
Updated 9/30/2016 6:43 PM

Prompted by residents' comments, two tiny Antioch-area school districts may investigate merging.

Grass Lake Elementary District 36 and Emmons Elementary District 33 both are one-school organizations serving parts of the Antioch community. Grass Lake has 188 students in prekindergarten through eighth-grade classes, while Emmons has 322 students in kindergarten through the eighth grade.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The buildings are less than 3 miles apart.

Last week, 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 the districts.

Such a committee, O'Brien wrote, eventually could recommend pursuing a merger or ending consolidation talks.

O'Brien's letter, authorized by the Grass Lake school board, was prompted by residents who want officials to explore consolidation.

Among them is Grass Lake District 36 resident Denise Mandigo, who has spoken to both school boards about the issue.

Mandigo said a merger would financially benefit both schools. Fixed costs would be spread across a larger population base, she said, and some duplicated costs could be eliminated.

For example, a consolidated district might be able to reduce administrative salaries and eliminate social worker, psychologist or special-education positions, she said.

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"Could we have one for both schools?" Mandigo said. "I feel we are overspending for this small population of students."

If the two school boards form an exploratory committee, O'Brien said, it should consider issues including:

• Whether staff positions would be eliminated, added or stay the same.

• The affect on residents' tax rates.

• Whether a new collective bargaining agreement would be needed, especially because teachers at the two schools are represented by different unions.

Emmons Superintendent Eileen Conway declined to comment on O'Brien's request. The Emmons board will discuss the request at its Oct. 20 meeting, she said.

Regardless of any eventual recommendation, O'Brien said he believes schools should share services when possible.

Grass Lake and Emmons already share busing services, O'Brien said. In the past, they've shared adaptive physical education and nursing services, he said.

"We would welcome expanding those areas," O'Brien said.

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