Montgomery County, The Time Is Now

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Last week, the Montgomery County School Study Commission presented a vision for the county, which includes a consolidated school district, between Hillsboro, Litchfield and possibly the Panhandle school districts. As part of the plan, the existing elementary schools and junior high or middle schools will remain, while a larger, consolidated high school would be built, possibly between Hillsboro and Litchfield.

Following the presentation, critics have been quick to point out weaknesses in the proposed plan. Some of those include longer bus rides, larger classes and not much potential savings in taxes.

But instead of focusing on what districts stand to lose, let's talk about what they stand to gain, and what Montgomery County as a whole stands to gain.

The proposed consolidated high school would house 900 to 1,000 students. Think about the possibility of expanded classes for all students. For those college-bound students, it means more choices in math, science and English classes, with the potential of even more dual-credit classes as a jump start to college. 

Another huge advantage would be the creation of a large vocational program, which could draw students from other school districts and bring in revenue for the new district. The St. Louis news continues to report job shortages for welders, plumbers and electricians, among other trades. Let's give our students a chance to learn some of those skills right here in Montgomery County and get a jump on a good job in this area or elsewhere.

Let's talk about athletics. Many of the schools in Montgomery County are already in a co-op for one sport or another. A consolidated school district would provide opportunities in a variety of sports right in that school. At the meeting, residents asked about lessened playing time for student athletes in a bigger school. But let's talk about stronger programs. Let's build freshman, junior varsity and varsity teams, maybe even intramurals at some level, so all students have a chance to try a sport or another extra-curricular activity.

Field of Dreams is known for it's quote, "if you build it, they will come." We know there are several new businesses in this area looking to expand. Businesses like Allscripts in Litchfield and Atlas 46 in Hillsboro are having a hard time getting employees and families to relocate here. And we know one reason is the schools. That's not a knock on the staff or programs our current schools offer. But think of the chances a bigger school could offer. And that's a chance to entice families to relocate to Montgomery County, building the tax base and other opportunities.

We all have a lot of great memories as Hiltoppers, Panthers and Lancers. A new school won't take away those memories. A new school won't mean any of our communities lose their identity. 

A new high school means a chance for our county to come together and provide a brighter future for all our students. Because in Montgomery County, we're stronger together.

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