School Consolidation and the Warren County-Wide Option
Richard W. Crockett
Both Monmouth-Roseville and United School Districts are facing potentially large capital expenditures in the near future. The Monmouth-Roseville district is looking at a 3.5 million dollar addition, potentially, to their 100-year-old high school building, with some additional life safety issues to address. United is facing life safety issues, as defined by the state, concerning the old Alexis gymnasium and may face the expenditure for a new gymnasium on the Warren Campus.
Both boards of education may want to pause long enough to look at the advantages and disadvantage, each from their own point of view, of a combined single county-wide school district, before spending these monies only to have to face rethinking the matter after having already spent these large sums.
There are clearly pluses and minuses to any such consolidation plan. What follows is an outline of one such consolidation plan and its pluses from each school district’s perspective. The minuses are not completely itemized, but the most potent one is emotional, having to do with the perceived “tearing away” of what is old and familiar. But consolidation may provide a way of maintaining some local community identity in the early grades. The county-wide plan will retire several older schools that are high maintenance facilities. This could be an opportune time for each board to assess the direction of their school with a countywide option.
(1) Grade Schools—Keep the present grade schools located at Alexis, Roseville, Yorkwood and Monmouth. Have an open enrollment policy whereby Warren school district students could go to the school of their choice. This would allow these students to access to the school closest to their homes.
(2) Junior High—Warren High School would be the unit junior high school.
(3) High School—Build a new unit high school.
(4) Savings of this consolidation plan—Buildings being closed—Present Monmouth High School, Roseville Jr. High School, Yorkwood High School, Alexis gymnasium and old high school building. Savings comes from maintenance and operating costs of these older buildings.
(5) Major item cost of this plan—New Building—one new high school would need to be built. It would be located in one of the following places, either on the Bypass around Monmouth or next to the Warren Jr. High School.
(6) Financing—tax base--The combined school district would have the tax base of five former districts (Alexis, Warren, Roseville, Yorkwood and Monmouth.)
(7) The board would need to assess the proposed district tax base and the costs involved. The board would also need to assess the savings of closing down several buildings and savings for bus services.
(1) Monmouth and Warren School are in the geographical center of the proposed district.
(2) Bus Routes/Student Ride time—There would be a drastic cut back in bus time per student as the grade school students would be bussed to the nearest grade school. Jr. High and High School would have a one-way trip in the morning and one trip home at night. This plan will be the best possibility to limit bus time for students.
(3) Parental participation and Support—Grade School Parents would be much closer to the schools and it would be much easier to follow their children in school activities. For the Jr. High and High school, one trip to Monmouth for sport, student activities, plays, etc. Some students may not be able to afford to participate in these activities under current arrangements. Also parental ability to follow their children would be easier. An example would be Berwick parents needing to travel to Yorkwood or Alexis for parent-teacher conferences rather than Warren or Monmouth.
(4) Quality of Education—Curriculum—Course offerings would be much greater with larger enrollment. Teacher/student interaction may improve as a result of reduced mind numbing time spent on the bus, and participation in activities could be improved for the same reason.
(1) High School—Monmouth-Roseville would be part of a larger new High School
(2) Junior High School—Monmouth-Roseville would be included in the propose Junior High School location at Warren that is very close to Monmouth.
(3) Grade Schools—The Monmouth grade schools would remain virtually the same as present except some additional students from United may prefer to attend Monmouth grade schools because of their living close to Monmouth.
(4) Curriculum—The curriculum would be enhanced due to the larger enrollment at all levels including vocational and college courses. The increased course offering could be added to both College Bound and Vocational curriculums.
(5) Class sizes—The district would have more flexibility to achieve classroom balance in size since it could move students to closer schools. Example: Berwick students could attend at Roseville or Monmouth.
A county-wide school district with a new high school at the edge of Monmouth would become a valuable tool in attracting new businesses and industries to the area.
Shorter bussing routes and enhanced curriculum provide the greatest weight in the incentive to create a countywide school district. The curriculum would be able to offer college preparatory coursed in classes devoted to that aim. The Monmouth-Roseville/ Monmouth College connection could be developed where high school students could receive some college credits while still in high school. The prospect for an enhanced vocational curriculum would exists because enrollment numbers would permit these course offerings. There would be more resources for the developmentally disabled, special needs students in a larger district with more in-house classes. Finally, gifted programs could be more easily offered in a school district with more resources.
Prudence would encourage both boards to take a step back and look seriously at the advantages to each of a county-wide school district and the way that it could be implemented before investing large sums of community resources in facilities that may beg for replacement sooner rather than later.