Potential Benefits for System-Wide Public School Consolidation

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Economic times lead to tough funding choices by state and local government officials throughout the Untied States. The Board of Supervisors in Rockbridge County, Virginia recognized this and asked for a white paper on school consolidation. The white paper authored by County Administrator Claire Collins coincides with the Board's effort to call issues to the attention of taxpayers to promote discussion and ideas.

What are the potential benefits of a system-wide public school consolidation? This is the question asked by the Rockbridge County, Virginia Board of Supervisors to County Administrator Claire Collins resulting in the publication of the white paper, entitled "Joint Schools, School Facilities and Superintendents: An Alternative Approach to Address Community Public Education".

The white paper highlights historical and current trends for consolidating public education. In areas of the United States with declining student populations, local governments are increasingly turning to school consolidation as a cost-saving measure. Consolidation of schools in the City of Williamsburg and James City County in Virginia reflects national trends with state laws guiding the methods of consolidation. Here in Rockbridge County, the City of Lexington and county have long shared a high school. According to Collins, "the consolidated high school is a model for regional cooperation and benefits the community".

The paper also addresses lessons learned from consolidations with emphasis on the highly complex, sensitive and emotional nature of addressing consolidated schools. Acquiring professional consulting services is recommended as no two consolidations are the same. Hire a professional consulting firms eliminates emotional ties and helps in identifying areas for financial savings and process improvement according to Collins.

Special appreciation is extended to the school divisions in the Rockbridge region, James City County, Virginia, Management Analysis, Incorporated located in Vienna, Virginia and Virginia Association of Counties for assistance and information on school consolidation. The white paper may be viewed in its entirety at http://www.co.rockbridge.va.us.

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Claire Collins
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