I am a mother of four children. They are in the 10th, sixth, fifth and fourth grade. They have all attended the WRH15 district, and currently the oldest is in the EA-WR High School. So many people are using scare tactics showing the evils of consolidation. As a member of the Committee of 10, I would like to take a few minutes to answer some of these allegations.
Schools will close: No one, and I mean no one, can guarantee a school will close or even remain open, with or without consolidation. Hartford Elementary is the school that everyone is discussing that is going to close. First, where would 255 students go? East Alton Elementary is full, and Wood River Elementary is using Hartford Elementary as an overflow school.
The village of Hartford’s population is slowly dwindling. The refinery has started buyouts of the town and with these buyouts, homes are being left empty and no one is moving in. Homes are being foreclosed on and no one wants to move into Hartford because of the issues underground. If the school would close, it would be due to the population of Hartford and Wood River.
Job loss: Once again, no one can guarantee that there will or won’t be job loss. With the current economic situation, teachers are being RIF’ed (reduction in force) and let go every year. Some may return the following year, but jobs are no longer secure in the district. Programs are being cut at all levels of education, through all districts, not just ours.
Tax rates will increase: There have been several studies that show that the tax rate will actually drop, meaning taxes will be lowered. Kurt Prenzler had even stated: “Assuming a property valued at $100,000, it is estimated that taxes will decrease by $30 per year for people who currently pay in the EA-WR/Wood River-Hartford districts and by $120 in the EA-WR/East Alton districts.” Almost all the studies show a decrease in taxes. The few that show there may be an increase is a very low increase. When we are thinking about our children, even if the increases are viable, wouldn’t our children’s education be worth it?
Busing/class sizes: The WRH15 2014-2015 student handbook states: “It is the goal of District No. 15 to provide the best possible environment for learning for all students. As a result, the district will make every effort to make class sizes equitable at all elementary grade levels. The district reserves the right to place students in the school that can best help the district achieve this goal. Students may be required to attend a school outside of their community of residence (Hartford students may be placed at Lewis and Clark Elementary or Wood River students may be placed at Hartford Elementary). When this occurs, the district will be responsible for providing transportation from the student’s home school.” As you can see, this procedure is currently in process without consolidation.
Free lunch programs: East Alton School District currently has a free lunch program for every student in their district, no matter what their economic situation is. Wood River-Hartford has the state free-reduced lunch program. Families that meet the state of Illinois requirements are eligible for a free-reduced price for lunches. The families in East Alton would still be eligible for the free lunches as long as they qualify for the program.
Common Core: 2014-2015 was the last year for school districts to enter the Common Core program. Wood River-Hartford has waited until the last minute to join. While our state currently has the Common Core program, many states are withdrawing from this. What happens if/when Illinois becomes one of these states that also withdraw from the program? Then the same standard that everyone states the districts are using will become once again become different and based on the standard the school sets.
Calendars: Currently the WRH15, EA13 and EA-WR High School follow separate school calendars. Recently with the snow days, the high school still had school while the students of WRH15 students were off. For the working parents, this became a major headache to find a babysitter, as many families use the high school as sitters.
We currently have Junior Oilers football, Junior Oiler cheerleading, Junior Oilers baseball and softball. This is all three communities coming together for sports; why can’t we get together for education purposes?
As a parent, I have to do what is right for my children. I have sat down with my children. I have explained consolidation. I want the best education and opportunities for my children as well as every child in all three communities. Vote “yes” on April 7th for consolidation.