Consultants chosen to prepare school consolidation report

O’FALLON – During a recent BEST committee meeting, it was reported that the committee assembled to organize a study into the possible consolidation of the four O’Fallon area school districts has chosen consultants to conduct the effort.

Dave Hopkins, who represents the committee organized by the O’Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce as an independent party, said the committee has chosen Dr. Nick Osborne and Dr. James Rosborg.

Osborne and Rosborg most recently prepared a consolidation feasibility study for Freeburg, Smithton, and St. Libory school districts. In that report, the pair did recommend consolidation, however child sex abuse allegations at Freeburg District 70 and the potential litigation costs associated with them scuttled the deal. 

The consultants have told Hopkins that they plan to discuss the consolidation idea with each of the four school districts, Districts 85, 90, 104, and 203, to determine the level of interest in consolidating. If they feel a district will not comply and the board of education will vote not to take part, they don’t wish to pursue consolidation plans that include that district as it could kill the whole process. An event similar to this took place when Smithton rejected the consolidation idea with Freeburg and St. Libory. 

“They are going to get the base data and then they will make the recommendation of which will be the most effective combination of schools. At the mid-point [of the study], they will make the recommendation of final combination,” Hopkins said. 

“The basis behind this is that if they have indications that at one school district or another that the idea just isn’t going to pass, they’re going to leave them out rather than pay for a separate study. Do what has a chance of succeeding rather than grasping at scenarios,” Hopkins continued. 

The projected cost of the study is around $17,500. The city of O’Fallon has dedicated $7,500 and the village of Shiloh has agreed to contribute $5,000. The remaining $5,000 is expected to be raised in the community. Hopkins said he does not anticipate the committee will have to approach any of the school boards for contributions towards the study cost. 

The study is expected to be completed by June 30. It will first be made available to the chamber committee, then the chamber membership, and then the public at large.

“I’m very happy we have a consultant identified and that we’re moving forward. We’re probably about a year later than what I expected, but I’m happy to see some momentum,” Hopkins told the BEST committee members.