As the old saying goes, sometimes history has a way of repeating itself and after the May 20 Massac Unit One board meeting, it would certainly appear the board finds itself in the same situation it was about 20 years ago when it faced problems with aging buildings.
At that time, there were nine attendance centers plus the district office. When state funds were available from the Capital Development Board, the Unit One school board took advantage of the funding to help construct the current Brookport Elementary School, Metropolis Elementary School and Massac Junior High School.
The old Brookport school, Central, Clark and old Junior High were all torn down and most recently the old Middle School was taken over by Southern Seven Health Department.
Now Unit One has six attendance centers, plus the unit office. Out of those six, the three county grade schools, Franklin, Jefferson and Unity are the oldest buildings with MCHS creeping closer to hitting the 40-year mark.
Just because the board is looking at options does not mean they have decided anything at this point. Before the board moves forward with any kind of plan, they made it clear they would hold public hearings and most likely have a referendum on a ballot.
As of the May 20 school board meeting, the board decided to take a look at its options. Earlier in the school year the Health Life and Safety reports were done by the Regional Office of Education and between the three county elementary schools, there is about $8 million in repairs that need to be made.
One option the board will look at is spending the $8 million to make the repairs and leaving everything as is.
Another option would be to re-district and close Jefferson Elementary and split the student population between Franklin and Unity Elementary schools. The board will also look at the cost of building a new elementary school large enough to hold the student population from all three county elementary schools.
There are several variables in place, which could affect any decision the Unit One board makes. One is the CAPITAL SPENDING Bill Fix Illinois. If that legislation comes to fruition and state money is available, looking at building a new elementary school building would make the most prudent economical sense.
The other variable to this whole situation is the SCHOOL CONSOLIDATION legislation. Essentially this is similar to what happened to the Regional Office of Education a few years ago. The state decided there should be fewer offices and regional offices consolidated.
Illinois' population is declining as people move out of state, but the number of school districts have remained the same.
Consolidation of the Unit One and Joppa Maple Grove school districts has been a source of controversy for many years. But, take a look at the industries in Massac County. There have been major blows to Honeywell and most recently, there is some speculation about the future of Electric Energy Inc., which is in the Joppa-Maple Grove district.
At one time Joppa-Maple Grove's school district relied heavily on the tax base from the big industries. But now, as the industries are struggling, it will no doubt have an effect on the school district.
If the state passes legislation requiring school districts to consolidate, then unfortunately, consolidation might be something the Joppa Maple-Grove school district will have to do, regardless of whether the board wants to do it or not.
It will be interesting to see how talk of possible consolidation and new construction is viewed by the public twenty years after the construction of Massac Junior High.
It will also be interesting to see how the talk of new school construction is perceived considering the Massac County Commissioners had tried two times to pass a 1 percent sales tax referendum to fund repairs to the county's courthouse, yet both times it failed.
If the Unit One Board decides to build a new elementary school, would voters approve a referendum for it?
There are so many unanswered questions at the moment but the main thing citizens and parents of students need to remember is nothing has been decided. However, I'm sure as these tough conversations become more frequent, there undoubtedly will be more parents showing up at the school board meetings to find out details and voice their concerns.