Consolidating High Schools Could Cost $9 to $13 Million
Analysis shows that the district would have to add on to one high school to accomodate all of the district high school students.
The St. Charles School District could expect to spend between $9 and $13 million to consolidate to one high school, according to analysis presented to the Board of Education.
Dickinson Hussman Architects and Brent Underwood, a retired superintendent, analyzed the viability of consolidating from two to one high school in the future based on expected trends in enrollment.
The district contracted with the group in the fall to study the issue because of a perception that closing one high school would save money. However, analysts found there would not be a substantial financial savings.
Neither high school has the capacity to accommodate students from both schools currently if the district wanted to continue to offer the same level of education, analysts said.
The district would have to increase student-teacher ratios, add many trailer classrooms and drastically change its teaching practices to fit all of the students into one school, said Brent Underwood.
To continue with the same type of class sizes and schedules, the district would have to expand a high school, likely St. Charles West because there is room on the campus for such an expansion. Such an addition to St. Charles West could cost $9 to $13 million.
"It would be very difficult to expand or add on significant square footage to St. Charles High School," Architect Dwight Dickinson said.
Underwood said the district would be able to cut only a few jobs by consolidating schools and would not save a substantial amount of money in utility costs by mothballing a school.
Superintendent Jeff Marion said he didn't find any of the analysis surprising.
Marion said he knew neither high school could accommodate the enrollment of both schools. Adding on to St. Charles West would also add more students and more cars to a highly-congested area.
"I had a feeling that this (consolidating) wasn't going to make a lot of sense," he said. "And smaller schools are better, so if there isn't a huge savings, why would you go away from something that people strive to have?"
Marion said if there was a financial savings, he'd be the first to consider the combining.
"But I think it reaffirms that we wouldn't get an immediate and short-term financial gain that justified the educational impact that would be made," he said.
The Board of Education is expected to study the findings in more depth during the next few months.
Enrollment Expected to Decline
District enrollment is expected to decline from 5,091 students in 2012 to 5,039 students by 2022, according to projections from a demographer who offered a low, medium, and high enrollment scenario.
Under the "medium" enrollment expectations, St. Charles West would drop in enrollment from 747 students today to 690 in 2022. St. Charles High School would drop from 908 students in 2012 to 843 in 2022.
St. Charles High School can functionally accommodate 1,181 students if the district uses a block schedule, 1,355 if it returns to a 7 period day.
St. Charles West can functionally accommodate 1,114 students under the current block schedule and 1,277 students under a 7 period day.