Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

January 28, 2014

Unit 40 weighs Edgewood closure

Tony Huffman
Effingham Daily News

EFFINGHAM — In response to declining enrollment and school funding, the option of closing Edgewood Elementary School was outlined Monday.

“This is a very difficult recommendation,” said Superintendent Mark Doan during the Unit 40 board meeting.

The recommendation will be discussed at a special meeting Monday, Feb. 10 at 6 p.m. at the Unit 40 Administration Building on South Banker St., where further details would be outlined, including financial impact related to such a closure.

“We want to give people the chance to express their feelings,” said Doan.

Doan outlined some of that information Monday, saying closing the school would save the district $443,000 per year. He informed the board the state has been behind $2,905,687 in aid payments to the district since fiscal year 2011.

While a decision on the closure will not be made at the Feb. 10 meeting, Doan anticipates the board to vote on the recommendation at its regular meetings either in February or March.

Currently, 59 students attend Edgewood. Students in grades kindergarten through second would be absorbed into existing classes while one additional section would be added at both the third and fourth grade levels.

Another issue that was discussed was the effect it would have on the staff at Edgewood.

“The district will have retirement positions available, therefore no certified staff positions would be reduced for fiscal year 2015,” said Doan of the four teachers at Edgewood.

According to Doan, there might be up to three non-certified positions that will be reduced, adding that seniority would be used for that determination. Edgewood Principal Cheri Marten may be considered to replace the retiring Dean Manuel, who is the principal at Central Grade School.

Doan said the specifics of that haven’t been worked out, pending a decision on Edgewood school.

“This isn’t easy,” said Doan, noting Watson, Mason, Funkhouser, East Side and West Side schools have been closed to Unit 40 students in past years. “It’s not something that anyone wants us to do. The financial issues have led us to this.”

The overall building consolidation is part of a growing emphasis by the district to stay economically stable. Doan has said the district’s long-range plan is to consolidate from six buildings to three.

Board member Carol Ruffner, who lives in the Edgewood area, found it difficult Monday to fight back tears while the subject was discussed.

"It isn’t what is best for our kids,” said Ruffner. “Financially, it is a necessity.”

In other news, the board:

• Approved a change to school calendar for students to attend school on Casimir Pulaski Day. Students traditionally have that day, which falls on the first Monday of March, off. The move would move up the final day students attend school to May 30. With all seven of the district’s emergency days used, any additional days will be taken as Act of God days, said Doan.

• Set high school graduation for Sunday, June 1, at 1:30 p.m.