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Corsica, Stickney draw closer to consolidation

CORSICA -- The joint meeting between the Corsica and Stickney school boards held Monday night moved the two communities closer to consolidating their two school districts into one, as the decreasing enrollment and economic numbers were put before the public.

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A meeting regarding the consolidation at the high school gym in Corsica -- which was picked as the site via coin toss -- hosted about 70 members of the public learning more about what could become the Corsica-Stickney School District.

Questions mostly surrounded how the consolidated district would work, especially on deciding on staff, bus routes and curriculum. Stickney School Board Chairman Lloyd Persson said the district would try to make the reapplication process for school staff positions as seamless as possible, but acknowledged the process could be difficult.

The meeting was to be the last large-scale public meeting before each school board approves the plan to be submitted to the state Department of Education in June. From there, the department would select the election date, which would likely be in September. The first year of the new school district would be in 2015-16.

The plan would have grades K-6 going to school in Stickney, while grades 7-12 would have classes in Corsica. The two schools are 12 miles apart on U.S. Highway 281.

One big advantage to the consolidation plan is the projected savings, according to school officials. The consolidated district would expect to spend $9,041.30 per student during the first year of the new district, which is expected to have 226 students in grades K-12. In the 2014-15 school year, the Stickney and Corsica school boards are expected to spend $12,857.79 and $11,006.20 per student, respectively. The projected budget of the new district in its first year is expected to be $682,173 less than what the two districts would spend on their own.

Enrollment figures point to the need to consolidate. Stickney is expected to fall below the 100-student threshold next year, which would allow the state to force the district to consolidate. Corsica has lost 27 students in the last four years and the two districts combined have seen numbers decrease from 293 students in 2010-11 to 247 students this current school year.

"It's in the numbers," Corsica School Board Chairman Jeremy Wright said after the meeting. "It's pretty clear cut."

Some of the questions asked Monday night did not have solid answers because the two school boards in place for each Corsica and Stickney would dissolve and a new school board would be selected based on seven at-large selections. The new district's school board would be in place in January 2015 and would decide on curriculum and items such as where sporting events would be played.

Wright said the school would emphasize math and science classes and potentially use the budget savings from consolidation to bolster career and technical education programs.

The school's athletic teams would be the Jaguars and wear cardinal red, black, white and silver; the schools have had sports co-ops together since 2009-10.

Proposed consolidation timeline:

Monday: Joint public meeting in Corsica

June: Consolidated plan adopted by each school board

June/July: Plan submitted to Department of Education

September: Likely consolidation vote date (determined by Dept. of Ed.)

November: Election held for new district school board

January 2015: New school board goes into office

July 1, 2015: Corsica-Stickney district goes into effect.