Letter to Editor:
Last week Ken Rakers wrote asking to know five things the students in the Aledo school district and the students in the Westmer school district do not have now, but will have if the consolidation passes.
For Westmer students: 1) More course offerings at the high school level, 2) more advanced classes in core subjects at the high school level, 3) more sports and club opportunities, 4) science labs for 5th graders, 5) potential to start band at 5th grade, and 6) keep a high school in Mercer County.
For Aledo students: 1) Avoid class and program cuts, 2) additional sections of classes for better class schedule flexibility, 3) potential to add more advanced classes like advanced placement or dual high school/college credit classes, 4) more vo-tech classes, 5) junior high students will have facilities for home economics and shop classes as well as track and football practice, 6) potential to start band at 5th grade, and 7) keep a high school in Mercer County.
Teachers and students in both districts were surveyed. The majority of those responding felt there are enough sections of those classes currently offered, but the teachers would overwhelmingly like to see additional courses added in each discipline in the high school. Many of the students said they would like to see additional courses offered in the curriculum in each department. The responses also showed that there are currently many courses offered that our students are unable to take due to scheduling issues. Right now both districts are tolerating the existence of classes with extremely low enrollments (less than seven students in a class). As the districts’ enrollments continue to decline, both districts will have to consider abolishing these classes.
Both school boards have acted fiscally responsible by not levying tax rates at the highest limit that they are legalized to levy. This is a rarity in the state of Illinois. They will not be able to continue this practice. The Alwood/ROWVA consolidation process was discontinued and now the Alwood school district is asking their taxpayers for an $.80 tax rate increase. Their current rate is higher than the rate we are asking for consolidation ($4.30). A consolidated district will have efficiencies that two separate districts would not be able to realize.
If we don’t consolidate now, one or both, districts may be eventually forced into an annexation situation eventually. If both districts join with another district, there will not be a high school in Mercer County. This would have a negative impact on the number of young families willing to move to this area. A strong school system contributes positively to the area’s businesses and property values.
Do we want to “hold on as long as we can”, cutting course offerings and programs to the bone and paying higher taxes? Or do we want to be pro-active and make the education of our children the best that we possibly can, make our tax dollars work more efficiently, and keep our communities vital and active?
I encourage anyone with questions to attend the Committee of Ten community meeting regarding consolidation on Oct. 23 at 7 p.m. in the Aledo Junior High music room. For the complete Committee of Ten recommendation report you can go to http://www.aledoschools.org/COTweb.htm .