Woodstock school consolidation talk draws financial, social concerns

WOODSTOCK – Community members and District 200 parents gathered Tuesday to discuss the possibility of consolidating Woodstock District 200 schools in order to save cash and better use facilities.

A subcommittee focused on the district's facilities recently brought forth an idea to consolidate high schools and close Clay Elementary School, Dean Street Elementary School and Northwood Middle School. The district held a community forum Tuesday to allow the public to voice their opinions on the matter. Many residents brought forward concerns about busing, classroom crowding, social disruption and layoffs.

“It’s a very emotional thing,” District 200 parent Jeremy Kaplan said. “A social strata exists already, and it has taken [the kids] time to get into that. If you take these kids out and put them into a new social situation, you’re going to have excessive bullying.”

Kaplan also expressed concern over the long-term effect of closing schools.

“Are we planning for a future of no growth?” he said. “It’s going to be just as expensive, if not more expensive, to reopen these facilities five or 10 years later.”

Creekside Middle School and Prairiewood Elementary School opened in 2007 and Woodstock North High School opened in 2008, all after a $105 million referendum passed with the expectation that the district would grow. Growth in enrollment didn’t happen, and district schools are under capacity without a projected rise in numbers, Woodstock School District 200 Superintendent Michael Moan said.

Teacher layoffs aren’t factored into the estimated $3 million in savings this idea could create, Moan said.

“Our class sizes are such that we can’t lose teachers,” he said. “We have room in other buildings to reconfigure, but the current discussion doesn’t center on cutting teachers.”

No final decisions have been made and members of the public will have numerous opportunities to provide feedback throughout the process. The committee will meet again Jan. 12 and the school board will consider various options in May, Moan said.

“There are a lot of steps along the way here,” he said. “We are at the very start of the process. … Some of these ideas may become options, but that is a process we will go through and create options for the community to weigh in on.”