New Superintendent Suggests Studying Future of High Schools Again

Jeff Marion, the incoming superintendent of the St. Charles School District, has suggested the Board of Education study possible long-term solutions to budget problems.

The new superintendent of the wants to study the cost savings the school district might realize by closing a high school.

Jeff Marion, who will take July 1, talked to the Board of Education Feb. 27 about the need for ways to save money over the long run. The district is now over the next two years, in part through cutting 10 positions.

One part of the effort to look for long-term solutions would be studying carefully the financial impact of closing a high school. Enrollment at the high schools has dropped to about 1,500 students this year, down from a high of 2,357 students in 1980.

"We can't leave any rock unturned," Marion said. "We haven't put a dollar figure to what that would look like."

Marion has proposed forming a task force to examine the costs associated with closing a high school and determine how the district would go about reducing staff, which is where the bulk of the cost savings would come from.

He said he'd like to look for an independent body that could help with that analysis.

"We may find out there would be a lot of emotional stress for little savings," he said.

The district has studied the emotional impact of closing a high school on the community already. A task force comprising community members, staff and students met to discuss the issue in 2008. The task force concluded that moving to one high school would not be necessary until enrollment dropped closer to 1,300 or 1,400.

Enrollment at  this year is about 850 students while about 775 students are enrolled at  for a total of 1,525 students in high school in the district.

"We focused on the emotional," Marion said. "We love St. Charles High and we love St. Charles West. At that point, since life wasn't dire we didn't need to do anything."

Marion said he doesn't have a schedule established for forming a task force, but did say he wanted it to include teachers, administrators and students.

Board member Wayne Oetting expressed frustration that the district hadn't considered this issue at the same time that they discussed whether to reopen a decision that cost $500,000.

After the district reorganization, elementary school enrollment swelled making some classes crowded. In an effort to keep class sizes low, the board decided to reopen an elementary school. But Oetting pushed the district not to be hasty in making that decision.

"I thought a year ago we needed to take a look at the facilities we had," he said. "We had a chance to save some money, we could have made this decision before. We've seen this coming with the high schools."

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