State considers school consolidation

Friday, June 27th 2008, 5:06 pm
By: News 9

By Jennifer Pierce, NEWS 9

The Oklahoma State Superintendant Sandy Garrett predicts dozens of districts will not be able to stretch their budget through the end of the year.

Shelley Shelby, a state school board association lobbyist knows the financial needs of Oklahoma school districts.

Rising costs in fuel, utilities and technology has put strain on the school budgets.

Up to 50 schools may not make their budget stretch through the year, according to Garrett. Consolidation or annexation may be the only solution for the 44 districts with 100 or fewer students.

"You know when the tone of conversation heads towards consolidation that it is a very drastic situation for some of our school districts," Shelby said.

Some smaller communities may not agree with the consolidation.

"Anytime you get into an annexation or consildation issue, you're talking about hurting people's identity," Shelby said. "There is an affiliation with your school district parents, patrons, school leaders. Everyone feels a connection to the school."

Shelby said consolidation doesn't have to be taken negatively.

"It can definitely be a positive experience if it is a community that wants to be a part of it," Shelby said.

The decision to consolidate or annex into another district usually goes before a vote of the people.

There is money available for schools that voluntarily consolidate. The 5 million dollar fund is generated through the lottery.