Whenever school consolidation is broached, many folks immediately bristle. That’s a natural reaction. In many communities, the schools are the meeting places, the centers of community pride and common ground.
But consolidation doesn’t necessarily mean that local schools have to sacrifice their identities to be swallowed by a new regional school corporation.
The Frankton-Lapel school district consolidation, which took place in 1972, demonstrates how the process can work for better economic efficiency and better educational offerings while communities retain their school affiliation.
Frankton High School stills exists. The Eagles still wear red and white, and the folks in Frankton still hold allegiance to their school. Same thing with Lapel High School, which has an impressive, shiny new facility, as well as a sparkling academic reputation.
So, the emotional reaction against consolidation, while understandable, can be somewhat misguided.
A recent article in The Herald Bulletin (search theheraldbulletin.com for “school consolidation”) revisited the possibility of consolidation for small local districts. In particular, the article dealt with a policy brief released by Ball State University’s Center for Business and Economic Research.
The brief concluded that mergers of the state’s smallest school districts would be economically necessary to reduce overhead and management expenses.
“Many of Indiana’s school districts are facing dwindling enrollment at a time when costs of providing a quality education are increasing,” CBER Director and brief co-author Michael Hicks explained.
“As some point, we are going to have to look at ways to reduce the school districts’ overhead while maintaining the ability to provide quality education in each community, a key to developing the state’s economy.”
Locally, the Daleville and Cowan school districts informally discussed the possibility of consolidation a few years ago. The districts, both in Delaware County, are among the smallest in the state.