MORRISON, Ill. — It’s only the first step, but a report released Tuesday night by two consultants is recommending that the Morrison and River Bend school districts seriously look at pursuing the reorganization and consolidation of those two districts into one.

The two school boards met in special session at the Morrison High School auditorium to hear the finished report, which has been in the works for several months and was paid for by a grant from the Illinois State Board of Education.

No decisions were made Tuesday night and no timelines were discussed, with the purpose of the meeting solely to look at the bottom line results.

Consultants F. Larry Copes and Ronald Yates of the Consulting and Resource Group agreed that those results indicate consolidation in this case has nothing to do with money since both districts are in good financial shape and very little would be saved in terms of dollars.

“If you’re thinking of reorganizing for financial reasons you gain very little,” said Copes. “Money, taxes and revenue are not reasons to consolidate.”

Instead it’s about student opportunities.

“Can we provide a better quality education for students?” he asked.

The consultants said if the boards decide to pursue consolidation, the facilities plan should focus on keeping the elementary students in buildings in their own towns, send all middle school students to Fulton and house them at the current Fulton High School and send all high school students to Morrison. Fulton Middle School could be closed and Morrison Junior High would be used to house some of the high school classes. The men said the reason Morrison High School is their choice is because it is the larger of the two schools and a split campus would work well; the junior high is located in the next block.

They said it would be the closure of Fulton Middle School that would create savings, both in operational costs and support staff expenses. Very little would be saved when it comes to the cost of teachers, since the number of students isn’t decreasing, even though enrollments are projected to continue to decline. Transportation costs would be a wash, neither greatly increasing nor decreasing, the consultants agreed.

Both consultants stressed both of the districts are in a reasonably stable financial state and that consolidation does not result in the need to increase the combined operational tax rate. That means the combined rates of the two districts in the Education Fund, the Operation and Maintenance Fund, the Transportation Fund or the Working Cash Fund would likely sustain the two districts or a newly consolidated district in a manner very similar to existing tax rates, the report said.

The report states, however, that the taxpayers of the River Bend District would see the operational funds tax rate increase while the taxpayers in Morrison would see the operational funds tax rate decrease.

Based on the results of the report, the consultants are recommending that the two districts form a Committee of Ten to investigate if the economic, fiscal and educational advantages of forming a new consolidated school district are sufficient to recommend moving forward with the consolidation.

Morrison School District Superintendent Jody Ware said the school board members of both districts will study the reports and talk about it at their meetings. She also said the PowerPoint presentation made Tuesday night will be available on district Web pages for the public to study.

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