ROSSVILLE – A last-minute offer Monday from Hoopeston Area school officials to form a cooperative high school prompted Rossville-Alvin school board members to reject a cooperative high school resolution with the Bismarck-Henning school district.
By default, the Rossville-Alvin district will now be talking exclusively to Hoopeston Area about a merger that would leave grade schools intact but send all students in both districts to a cooperative high school.
The Rossville-Alvin school board had a resolution on its agenda that would have committed the district to working with Bismarck-Henning toward a cooperative high school by the year 2006. The meeting drew a standing-room-only crowd inside the Rossville-Alvin Grade School library.
The resolution drew many comments from audience members and a lot of discussion and disagreement among Rossville-Alvin school board members who were still considering the pros and cons between a merger with Bismarck-Henning or a merger with Hoopeston Area.
But about two and a half hours after the meeting had started, the Rossville-Alvin school board members voted 4-3 not to approve the Bismarck-Henning resolution. Eric Roberts, Ray Rice, Craig Potter and Dale Lithgow voted against the resolution, and Roger Satterwhite, Lynndel Davan and Dennis Price voted in favor of it.
For the last several months, Rossville-Alvin school officials have been meeting with Bismarck-Henning and Hoopeston Area school officials to discuss possible school district mergers.
Rossville-Alvin officials have said in the past year that their school district cannot survive another three years on its current financial course. After a recent public survey that indicated taxpayers were not in favor of raising taxes to preserve the district, school officials began stepping up talks with neighboring districts on possible mergers.
Previously, talks between Rossville-Alvin and Hoopeston Area school officials had focused on consolidating the two districts, while talks between Rossville-Alvin and Bismarck-Henning centered on the two districts retaining their grade schools and forming a cooperative high school.
Almost a month ago, in its last meeting with Bismarck-Henning, Rossville-Alvin school board members indicated they would make a decision as to which district they would choose for a merger. As a result, Rossville-Alvin school officials drafted the resolution – similar to a resolution that the Bismarck-Henning school board approved last week – and put it on Monday's agenda.
About 85 residents from all three school districts attended Monday's meeting and voiced their opinions to the Rossville-Alvin school board. Some wanted the Rossville-Alvin school board to keep all schools in Rossville by raising taxes. Others supported a consolidation with Hoopeston for various reasons, and others supported a cooperative high school with Bismarck-Henning for various reasons.
Midway through the meeting, however, Hoopeston Area Superintendent Mark Conolly addressed some questions raised by audience members about the Hoopeston Area school district. During those comments, he said that if the Rossville-Alvin board was committed to the cooperative high school option, then the Hoopeston Area district was willing to match the offer from Bismarck-Henning to pursue a cooperative.
Rossville-Alvin board members asked if the board was behind that offer, and Conolly explained that five Hoopeston Area board members were with him, and they were in support of such an offer. Hoopeston Area officials also indicated they were in support of the two districts renaming the high school and coming up with a new mascot and colors for the high school.
Once that offer was made, several audience members told the Rossville-Alvin school board members that they would rather the board not vote on the resolution until it could discuss the options to a fuller extent with the two districts.
But Rossville-Alvin School Board President Dennis Price explained that the school board had been discussing and considering its options for some time, and Rossville-Alvin owed it to Bismarck-Henning and Hoopeston Area officials to make a decision at Monday's meeting as they had pledged to do.
You can reach Tracy Moss at (217) 443-8946 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.