The Herald Bulletin

November 25, 2013

Editorial: Fears over school consolidations can be overcome

The Herald Bulletin

---- — So many schools districts have been through the often painful process of consolidation. In Madison County, we have witnessed the loss of Highland and Madison Heights high schools due to dwindling enrollment.

Combining schools became prevalent in Indiana in the 1960s as numerous small schools dominated the Hoosier landscape and economy became a concern.

Neighboring Delaware County has seen that trend continue on to today notably with the 1988 consolidation of Muncie Northside (does anyone remember the opposition to its construction in the 1960s). Now the Muncie school board has moved to combine Muncie Southside and Muncie Central high schools. In a 4-1 vote, the board decided to turn Southside into a middle school.

There is a good reason for the action. Enrollment fell by 183 students this year, state funding has not helped the district and voters defeated a proposal to increase property taxes that was reportedly needed to keep transportation going for students. The consolidation may save $1.7 million a year.

The new Muncie Central will have 1,700 students.

Tempers, of course, flared before the vote.

But all that we in Anderson have to do is go back to a school action that combined Anderson and Highland after the 2009-10 year.

Anger also erupted over the decision. Parents threatened to have their children schooled out of the district. Many did. But it is always interesting to note in these consolidations that parents are the first to vocally take issue with the loss of a school. Their fears mostly center on the disruption that a consolidation will have on their child’s life.

But as we learned in Anderson, change in life is inevitable. And our young people tend to adapt to change better than parents.

Larger schools have the opportunity to develop a wider range of programs, both educational and athletic, with more specialized facilities and instructors. One often-cited example took place at Mendon Union in Ohio, where officials consolidated schools primarily to provide more course offerings for a more complete curriculum.

Such major transitions take a positive effort including classroom teachers, bus drivers, students and parents – the entire school family.

Anderson got through its consolidation of Highland and Anderson high schools with everybody working together. Muncie may lose some families to other districts but those who remain may see more opportunities for their children.

In summary By rallying together, Muncie school families can make the high school consolidation work.