Mathews school district considers consolidation

VIENNA — Mathews Local School District officials are reviewing options for survival, including consolidating with a neighboring school district.

In May, voters for the fifth time defeated a bond issue to build a new school complex. Mathews High School is more than 100 years old and must be made compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act because a student with special needs will be coming to the school.

Superintendent Lew Lowery has said while one option for Mathews is to renovate and repair the district’s three buildings as best as possible, sharing services with or consolidating into another district should be explored.

Lowery said he spoke to the seven districts that surround Mathews, and Liberty Local Schools wants to talk and the Brookfield district also expressed interest. Joseph Badger, Maplewood, Howland, Hubbard and Lakeview school districts were not interested, he said.

New Liberty Superintendent Joseph Nohra, who takes the post Aug. 1, said Liberty school board members were ”enthusiastic with the idea to sit down and have a discussion about consolidation and shared services and working with other districts.”

Nohra said a meeting will be planned with Mathews and Brookfield schools to at least discuss options of how neighboring districts can work together. He said Liberty and Girard schools already share a food services director.

Nohra said if consolidation were to become an official option, an independent study would be done and taxpayers would have an input and vote on the issue.

”There are different kinds of consolidations and shared services options. Consolidation would be a long process,” he said.

Lowery said if there is consolidation, Liberty schools would get the Mathews students if the district could not continue to operate. With sharing of services, such as busing or staffing between two districts, there is more involved since bargaining agreements exist with employees in two districts.

Mathews Board President Tarin Brown said consolidation has not always received favorable response from many residents or other districts.

“It can be very complex,” he said. ”We could at least all meet to see if there would be interest and what would be involved. There is no guarantee it would go any further than a first meeting.”

Brown said the option would be to “go along and fix problems as they come up and try to maintain what we have the best we can.”

A third option would be some type of levy for renovating and using only two buildings in the district, with Baker for grades kindergarten to sixth and Mathews High School for grades seventh to 12th. Currie would be closed.

“This district cannot continue to maintain three buildings,” Lowery said.

Brown said another option would be to explore the maximum debt the district could take on without the state’s help, which is $14 million.