BOUND COUNTY, Ill. – The Bond County Community Unit #2 District’s Board of Education is weighing closing one of its elementary schools.
District Superintendent, Wes Olson, proposed closing the school, and many parents have spoken out in opposition.
The district held a public hearing on the matter Wednesday night. The superintendent gave a 45-minute presentation on the reasons for the proposal.
“Here’s the facts, we have a declining enrollment in our district. We still have a class size equity issue,” Olson said during his presentation Wednesday night.
The superintendent detailed the following reasons for a closure:
- DECLINING ENROLLMENT AND CLASS SIZE EQUITY
- GREATER STUDENT NEEDS DUE TO THE PANDEMIC
- ECONOMIC UNCERTAINTY AND INFLATION
- LABOR SHORTAGES
Sorento is a Blue-Ribbon Elementary school with 107 students enrolled in its K-8 classrooms and approximately a 9:1 student to teacher ratio.
According to the superintendent’s presentation, closing Sorento would save approximately $125,000 annually.
“I think these numbers are conservative,” Olson said. “It’s about student need, however, to say it’s not about finances, or that Dr. Olson said it wasn’t about finances, isn’t accurate, because there is a financial component here.”
According to data from the district, it spends the most amount of money per student for those who attend Sorento Elementary School.
After his presentation, the board members asked questions and then held public comments for an hour. The board did not make a decision on the future of Sorento Elementary School Wednesday night but could vote to close it at its next board meeting, Wednesday, Jan. 19.
If approved, the plan calls for the school to close at the end of the 2021-2022 school year.
“We really don’t want the school to close because it is the heart of our community,” said Melissa Goymerec, a parent of three students who attend Sorento.
She recently moved from Ballwin, Missouri, to Sorento, Illinois, for the school.
“Here I am in this beautiful place, this Blue-Ribbon school with one class per grade. The school is within walking distance from our house, I have three kids in this school, kindergarten, fifth and seventh grade,” Goymerec said.
“It’s really the center of our community. It’s the main employer in our town. To lose that community, to lose that smaller environment with one class per grade is just devastating for our town.”
Another community member said, “A good board doesn’t make decisions for the community, but with the community.” The comment was which was greeted with applause from some of the audience members.
Some parents and at least one board member said they would like an outside expert to look into the numbers and determine if this is the smartest move for the district.
If the board votes to close the school, the superintendent’s presentation showed that most staff would be reassigned to other schools in the district.
The estimate showed about five staff members losing their jobs. Students would be sent to the other schools in the district. It is still up in the air on how students would be redistributed; whether it would be open-enrollment or boundaries.
“It’s the main employer in our town, to lose that community, to lose that smaller environment with one class per grade is just devastating for our town,” Goymerec said.
During Olson’s presentation, he said he understands this is difficult for the community.
“Certainly, it has an impact on the community and the surrounding areas, it’s been heard and acknowledged and it is real,” he said.
The board had asked for other options, and Olson presented the board the following Wednesday night: