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Voters approve Corsica-Stickney school consolidation

Roland Assmus, of Stickney, center, votes on the consolidation of the Corsica and Stickney school districts Tuesday at the Stickney Community Building in Stickney. (Sean Ryan/Republic)

STICKNEY -- Through all of the public meetings and the planning process, there seemed to be large amounts of support for consolidation of the school districts in Corsica and Stickney.

On Tuesday, that support came through at the polls.

Both towns had more than 80 percent of their voters supporting the consolidation plan, which will go into effect July 1, 2015, and will create the new Corsica-Stickney School District.

In Corsica, 172 votes (80 percent) were for the consolidation and 41 votes were against the measure. In Stickney, voters were in favor 162-30, a support rate of 84 percent, according to election officials.

Thirty-four percent of the registered voters in the Stickney district voted on the ballot question; 24 percent of Corsica's registered voters cast a ballot in the special election. A majority of voters in each school district had to approve the measure for it to pass.

Officials for both schools said it was proof that the public overwhelmingly was behind the plan and supports the two towns' futures as one school district.

"It's just nice to have that support," Corsica Superintendent Vern DeGeest. "We thought we had a good thing going and this just sort of confirmation of that."

Stickney Superintendent Bob Krietlow said the passing margin is confirmation that officials have been doing the right thing by moving the consolidation process along. It also could remove some skepticism about whether everyone was on board.

"If it would have only passed by a few percentage points, then you might have some people doubting the whole process," he said. "This felt like something that people understood we were going to need to do."

The plan is to have grades K-6 go to school in Stickney, while grades 7-12 would have classes in Corsica. Two bus routes each are expected to run in the Stickney and Corsica parts of the district to move students to school.

Dwindling enrollment figures have helped facilitate the change. The new school district is projected to have 226 students in its first year in 2015-16, which is 67 fewer students than what the two districts had combined in 2010-11.

Krietlow said it's possible the two districts should have combined earlier, but also said that they wanted to make sure there was plenty of advance time before the vote so people could be informed and involved in the process.

The vote also came before consolidation was forced upon either district. Stickney, for example, is projected to fall below the 100-student threshold this year, which would have allowed the state to force Stickney to consolidate.

"Ideally, each town would love to have its own school and be thriving, but that's just not feasible with the way things are," Krietlow said.

But there's a lot of familiarity for the two schools separated by 12 miles. They've had sports co-ops together since 2009-10 and have shared teachers and other programs in that time as well.

"We're pretty close neighbors and our towns have a lot of commonalities," DeGeest said. "It just makes a lot of sense for both towns."

Big decisions in the new district lie ahead. A school board election will be held this fall to select seven new at-large members for the Corsica-Stickney board, and they'll make the decisions on the new curriculum, hiring teachers and finding a new superintendent. Both Krietlow and DeGeest plan to retire after the 2014-15 school year. The school's athletic teams will be the Jaguars and wear cardinal red, black, white and silver, as they do now.

"Our kids get along together pretty well," DeGeest said. "They might get along with other towns too, but there's a strong bond between Corsica and Stickney."