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(CHRISTIAN COUNTY) — While the Consolidate Primary Election is going on Tuesday, June 28, there is an important question facing voters in the Morrisonville and Panhandle school districts. Voters in each district will be asked whether they want to deactivate a school in each district.
For Morrisonville voters, an affirmative vote to deactivate will mean Morrisonville High School students will attend high school in Raymond. For Panhandle voters, it would be to deactivate the middle school and send those students to Morrisonville.
The school boards in each respective districts have approved the plan. If approved by voters in both districts, those changes would be effective with the 2023-24 school year.
Projected enrollment figures show Morrisonville High School with 92 students and Panhandle with 150 students. Combined, the high school enrollment is 242. At the middle school level, Morrisonville numbers show 64 students in sixth through eighth grade with Panhandle’s number at 87 for a combine total of 151.
Proponents of the agreement say the Morrisonville District has lost in-person Spanish classes, art, vocational living skills, Sociology and Psychology. They also say staff shortages impact the number of required classes teachers need to prep for each day. They say there is a limited number of teachers to fill positions within the district.
Since 2013, Panhandle has lost computer classes, English classes, Mathematics classes, band and special education staff. Continued loss of curriculum is anticipated due to inability to fill open positions.
According to information being used to promote the question, supporters say there are economic advantages to the plan.
If passed, in the Panhandle District, the Farmersville Grade School will continue to serve students in Panhandle pre-school through first grade. The Raymond Grade School will continue to house second through fifth grade.
The Morrisonville Elementary School will remain as is, with the exception of the sixth grade moving across the street to the new middle school.
School activities within the host community draws
families from within the two districts and from school districts which play games at Morrisonville and Lincolnwood. This creates retail opportunities within each community as people stop to shop at local businesses before and after the activity.
It is emphasized each school district will retain local control with its school boards and administration. Both districts will have all facilities to be fully utilized.
Proponents point to five advantages for the plan: Improved academic opportunities for all students in grades six through 12; increase the number of career and technical education opportunities; improve efficiency in delivering high quality educational opportunities for all students across the districts and communities; improve extra-curricular opportunities beyond sports; and having a larger student body will increase diversity and allow more social opportunities.
Both districts will have the opportunity to share transportation between the districts, minimizing some trips between the deactivated school buildings. With all junior high students in the same building, and all high school students in the same building, athletic transportation simplifies. Parents will not have to worry about getting their athlete from one school to the other for practice.
The challenges for deactivation include having to overcome the inefficiencies of not acting in innovative ways to educate students in the 21st century and a willingness to embrace a shared vision for the future and change in education.
If passed the Morrisonville and Panhandle districts will enter into a two year agreement. Following the initial agreement, they may continue the contract on a yearly or two year basis.
In the future, if either district wants to reverse the deactivation, they must follow the same set of guidelines established by the Illinois State Board of Education.
Voting on Tuesday is from 6:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m.