MR. MORRIS (WREX) — Students could enter David L. Rahn Middle School for its final year of operation this fall.
Oregon School District Superintendent Tom Mahoney gave a recommendation to the school board in May to close the school for two reasons.
The first reason stems from a five year stretch where the district operated at a $400,000 deficit on average. Mahoney says the district cut both teachers and administrators to get future budgets balanced, but says there's still ground to make up.
The second reason, and the reason why DLR was specifically put on the chopping block, are a number of health and safety improvements that need to be made to the school. Mahoney says that work will cost between two and six million dollars in total.
Mahoney says closing the school combined with federal CARES Act money and rising property values would get the district back on track.
"I believe that with the closure, between our increased EAV, our tax revenue locally, and CARES Act money, we should be able to stem the tide of any revenue loss," Mahoney said.
If the closure is approved, DLR students will go to Oregon High School's building. Mahoney says there's space at the high school for the middle school students to largely work and mingle independently of the high school. Additionally, Mahoney says the move could give the middle school students better access to elective courses.
However, Mt. Morris Village President Phil Labash says DLR is the wrong place to cut. He says over a third of the district's students come from Mt. Morris, and with that kind of representation, the village should keep a school.
"Mt. Morris is a part of the equation," Labash said. "To basically pull our last school, I think it's really saying that your community is not as valued as our community, and that's a problem."
Labash went on to criticize the district for passing budgets that lead to the shortfall. He also blamed the district for not performing enough maintenance at DLR, which is why Labash says it needs a large influx of money.
"We're in this situation because I believe over the years the school district has continued to neglect the needs of DLR," Labash said. "They've basically put us in this position."
Mahoney says if the school board votes to keep the school open, the district would likely sell a bond to finance the work. However, he's skeptical that the district could operate financially sound with that method long term.
The school board has a special meeting on August 2 to discuss potential strategies to keep DLR open. The board will then make their final decision on August 16.