CARLOCK, Ill. (WMBD) — On Tuesday night, McLean County’s Unit 5 school board unanimously approved what would be cut in the 2023-2024 academic school year, if a tax referendum on the April ballot is not approved.

Superintendent of Unit 5 School Dr. Kristen Weikle explained the reason behind the cuts is because, “When you double your enrollment of student population, you only have a ten cent increase in your tax rate, the equalized assessed value of properties is not growing consistently, and the state fails to spend almost $22 million. That combination of things really led us to where we are today.”

One of the recommended budget cuts for the 2024-2025 school year, which has not been voted on yet, was closing Carlock Elementary School.

“Carlock is a cornerstone of our neighborhood, and losing it would mean losing a vital part of a currently growing small town,” said 4th-grade Teacher from Carlock Elementary School Jennifer Burns.

Parents, teachers, and Carlock residents alike are worried about their children’s futures.

“Carlock Elementary is clearly one of the healthy, thriving parts of the district and it would truly be a place of educational malpractice to remove that part of the unified body,” said Derek Mead, a parent of children who attend Carlock.

These budget cuts would only happen if the tax referendum on the April ballot isn’t passed. That referendum would increase the education fund from $2.72 to $3.60, an $.88 increase. Dr. Weikle, the Unit 5 Superintendent, said that would actually decrease the tax rate compared to what it is now.

“We’re only asking for that increase to occur when our building bonds are paid off in two years and some of the working cash money is paid off,” said Dr. Weikle.

As for how the potential closing of Carlock may affect teachers at the elementary school, Dr. Weikle said there’s specific contract language that the district must follow when a teacher needs to move into another position, and they will follow it.

The Unit 5 school board only approved the budget cuts for the 2023-2024 school year, if the tax referendum doesn’t pass, which includes:

  • Reduce administration
  • Reduce budgets by 10%: unit office, building budgets, curriculum budgets, technology, extracurriculars and co-curricular (mostly supplies, materials, and travel)
  • Reduce funding for field trips
  • Push band/orchestra to 6th grade
  • Remove funding for Schedule B Illuminate (MTSS collaboration, screening, and progress monitoring) coaches
  • Remove Schedule B at the junior high levels (6-8 athletics, clubs, councils, etc.)
  • Remove the freshman teams
  • Limit the number of students who travel for out-of-town competitions
  • Combine Vocational Transition Assistance Program (VTAP) job sites for students with disabilities
  • Increase registration, activity, and gate fees (charge for all sporting events)
  • Increase facility rental fees for community and parent groups
  • Implement the National School Breakfast and Lunch programs at the high schools

Closing Carlock Elementary School is only a recommendation at this time, proposed for the 2024-2025 school year, which has not been approved.

The 2024-2025 recommended budget cut list includes:

  • Reduce administration
  • Close Carlock Elementary School
  • Increase class ranges at every level
    • K-1st grade: 27 students/class
    • 2nd-5th grade: 30 students/class
    • 6th-12th grade: 35+ students/class
  • Reduce days/times of classes with limited or no mandates at the elementary level (P.E., music, art, IMC) = shortened school days
  • Reduce electives in grades 6-12 (music, art, technology, businesses, family and consumer science, AP/Dual credit, etc.)
  • Reduce special education community outings
  • Reduce JV teams