- School districts need to consider several factors when considering the consolidation of two schools in an effort to cuts costs, Jay Toland, chief financial officer for Scotland County Schools in Laurinburg, NC, writes for District Administration.
- District leaders need to consider the impact on personnel costs, including teaching allotments and the likely reduced cost of clerks, bookkeepers, maintenance workers and other non-certified staff members.
- School boards and administrators also need to compute the impact on non-personnel items, such as building upkeep and utilities, as well as the increase or decrease in transportation costs that such consolidations may incur.
One of the toughest administrative tasks school district leaders face is the need to predict the future. Schools are constructed on the basis of long-range population predictions, which may not come to pass or may change when communities face economic down-turns or natural disasters. The increase in school choice options also interferes with tidy predications of school attendance.
In situations such as these, school districts may be left with buildings that are half-filled and school boards and government officials may recommend consolidation of schools. Though this article gives a clear-cut explanation of how to compute potential savings, one issue that is not mentioned is the sale of surplus school buildings, which may add funds to capital coffers.
However, there are other costs to consolidation which must be considered on a case-by-case basis. One is the impact closing a school may have on the community in which it operates, particularly if that school facility offers more than classroom instruction. Another element is the impact on students.
While consolidation may improve student achievement, in some cases, because of expanded resources, studies show that some students in low-income rural districts fare worse in larger schools. And while transportation costs may decrease in some cases, expanding routes not only impacts costs but the long bus rides can also take a toll of students. School consolidation, though sometimes necessary, may not be the easy fix some school boards like to imagine. Other alternatives to consolidation need to be carefully considered as well.