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Solon Schools Won't Close A School Building Next Year

The school board will revisit the need to restructure the school district's facilities in the event of meeting low enrollment triggers or financial troubles

 

Despite enrollment declines, officials and a community strategic planning team have decided the district does not need to close a school next year.

But in its report, that strategy team -- made up of more than 60 school officials, parents and interested community members -- said the district should revisit the discussion if enrollment declines reach a certain level or if the district is beset by financial troubles.

In the future, the school system will re-open discussions of reconfiguring the district and possibly closing a school in these circumstances:

  • If 275 students or fewer are enrolled in kindergarten in the district for two consecutive years.
  • negative change in the district's financial status.

Superintendent Joe Regano said the recommendation gives district officials the chance to "step back" and gather more data on enrollment numbers. Kindergarten registration occurs in late February and early March.

What the Report Says

The strategy team has met since August, studying data and discussing how Solon's future development will affect enrollment in the district's seven schools, which include four elementary schools, two middle schools and a high school.

The report, presented to the school board this week, says there is "no urgency" to close a building next year because of the district's solid financial condition and lack of information right now on enrollment numbers. Still, it acknowledges that the district's elementary schools are under capacity and "inefficient" in their use of space.

If viewed as a "pure business decision," the district could close an elementary school and fit the elementary population in the three remaining schools.

But this is not a pure business decision, the strategy team concluded.

"However, because these are schools and consolidation decisions have clear impacts on children and families, this process takes those human factors into consideration," the report reads.

A Maturing Community

After decades of growth, Solon is nearly built out. That has led to stabalizing and then declining enrollment in the school system.

The disparity between the senior class and kindergarten enrollment illustrates the issue. There are 438 students in the class of 2012 and 256 students in kindergarten this year.

"With this new enrollment trend, the Solon Schools must continue to operate as efficiently as possible and demonstrate that efficiency to the public," the report reads. "As we go through this process, we want to look at this new reality as a positive, not as a negative."

A Balancing Act

But it will be a balancing act to make district changes without compromising the district's academic success.

District officials say they are steadfast in making sure the process is open and proactively communicated to the public, and that any re-alignment of the school system does not compromise its academic and extracurricular excellence, doesn't tinker with class sizes and doesn't create inequities between the programs at different buildings.

Communication will be key, Regano said. The district is sending out an alert on the decision this morning.

School board members thanked the strategy team and lauded the district's planning process, which allows diverse voices from Solon tackle the district's difficult issues.

"This was a really important topic to an awful lot of people," Board member Julie Glavin said. "They put in an awful lot of effort."

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