Before I began working with SHP Leading Design, I was the superintendent of the Miami Trace school district in Washington Court House, Ohio. During my time in this position, the district consolidated from seven small elementary schools that averaged about 175 students per school into one large school on the same campus as the high school. A few years later a new middle school would join the consolidated campus.
As written in a previous blog, there are a number of considerations districts need to evaluate before making the decision to consolidate. For Miami Trace, the growing operating costs combined with the repairs needed for seven aging buildings made the decision easy. The district also had the overwhelming support of the community and the staff.
While every district is unique and the decision to consolidate may not be as clear cut for some, I wanted to share five benefits Miami Trace experienced as a result of consolidation. These benefits may vary from district to district, but they provide a good frame of reference for what you can expect if your district decides to consolidate. At Miami Trace, there were called the five Cs.
One of the greatest benefits realized after consolidating to one campus was just how much easier it was to communicate within the entire district. Even with today’s advanced technology, having the entire district on one campus ensured that important messages and documents were delivered accurately and in a timely fashion. Any information that needed to be disseminated from the district office now only needed to go to one destination, instead of schools spread throughout the community.
School districts always strive for consistency, but the reality is that it’s difficult to implement the same program across multiple schools. For example, before Miami Trace consolidated, there were five different reading programs being taught throughout the seven elementary schools. This wasn’t intentional, but over time, programs were modified for various reasons.
After consolidating to one elementary school, a single reading program was developed and had the assurance of it being taught consistently to all students. This consistency ensures that the district was delivering on internal goals and meeting state educational requirements.
In addition to being inconsistent with some programs, there was also no continuity with some of the rules and regulations. There were seven different Student-Parent Handbooks at the elementary level prior to consolidation with varying policies on everything from starting times to lunchroom behavior to absence reporting. Streamlining these policies for one campus after consolidating improved administrative processes and helped teachers, parents and students understand what was expected of them.
Even if you have multiple schools, one way to ensure consistency and continuity is to have collaboration across the district. Unfortunately, when administrators and teachers are spread out at different buildings, it’s difficult to schedule these collaborative sessions. Before consolidation, Miami Trace had one day per year where they were able to gather the entire district. After consolidation, these meetings became a regular occurrence. It’s much easier to gather all the teachers in a particular grade level or the administrative team when they are all centrally located on one campus.
Finally, it’s impossible to ignore the financial impact that consolidation has on a district. It goes without saying that when you move from seven elementary schools to one, there is going to be significant cost savings. At Miami Trace, savings were delivered in many obvious ways (needing just one cafeteria, computer lab, library, etc., instead of seven), but also in some ways that are often overlooked (reduced costs for T1 lines and internet services). In total, roughly $400,000 per year was saved on operating costs alone after consolidation.
While these examples are specific to my experience at Miami Trace, similar benefits have been recognized by other SHP clients who have decided to consolidate. If you think consolidation might be right for your district, we’d be happy to discuss all the considerations and possible benefits with you.