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Jumping through the hoops

CHERRY – The Cherry Grade School Board is calling upon its community for help to push legislature that would guarantee a consolidation between Cherry and Dimmick elementary schools.

Although it was initially intended in March that Cherry would merge with Dimmick, about 60 community members discovered on Wednesday at Cherry’s board meeting, the merge isn’t going as “fast and smooth” as everyone hoped.

When Cherry selected Dimmick over Ladd Community Consolidated Grade School, the school board met with State Rep. Frank Mautino, who was positive about the merge but brought the issue of considering which high school Bureau County students would attend.

The Cherry community has hopes to continue sending their students to Hall High School, however, the Dimmick Elementary School District feeds into LaSalle-Peru High School.

“(Mautino) felt like there might be an issue with that, and we’ve been trying to work that out,” said Cherry School Board member Jim Lower.

The Bureau, Henry and Stark Regional Office of Education (ROE) Board of Trustees, who will have the final say in which school Cherry will merge with, says the school code reads that students have to attend the same high school, which means if Cherry students go to Dimmick they would then have to attend LaSalle-Peru High School.

Cherry and Dimmick’s lawyers say the school code reads that the high school situation should only be considered, and it isn’t an issue if students attend separate high schools.

Lower said the only way the ROE will accept Cherry students attending Hall High School after the merger is if the legislature language is cleaned up. The school board is now urging Mautino to change the legislature, just in the case for Cherry and Dimmick.

“We just need it to move forward,” Lower said. “He needs to know we want this to go through.”

Lower urged the crowd to call, email and write letters to make it clear they want their kids at Dimmick and not Ladd.

“Anything would be helpful just to keep this thing on track and moving forward,” Lower said.

A few complaints were heard from the crowd that Mautino was hard to get a hold of and rarely returned calls. Lower insisted they continue trying to make contact with him, and also suggested contacting State Sen. Sue Rezin and ROE Superintendent Angie Zarvell.

Lower said Mautino will be back in session the middle of September and that would be the earliest the matter could be brought on the floor. If it’s voted on and passes, the next step is taking it to the ROE board of trustees, who then make the final decision on the merger. Lower said where the ROE stands now, if the legislature is approved, there most likely won’t be a problem with students going to Dimmick.

What’s bothering Dimmick Superintendent Ryan Linnig is the holdup from politicians, which he said is taking away from what’s best for the kids. He explained the holdup is taking away valuable time that could be used to get teachers and students acquainted with on another to make for a smoother transition.

“Illinois politics are getting in the way right now, that’s frustrating because in doing that it’s detriment to the schools,” he said. “The problem is when you get people who aren’t educators who are making decisions on education, they don’t understand why it’s important to have a timeline.”

Dimmick recently passed a resolution to further show support for the merger. Cherry passed the same resolution Wednesday night.

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