Heritage school board discusses athletic co-op with Villa Grove

HOMER — The Heritage school board discussed a proposed athletic cooperative with the Villa Grove school system at a recent special meeting.

Heritage's former football co-op partner, the Shiloh school district, based in Hume, voted in January to explore a co-op with Tri-County, comprising the Oakland and Kansas districts.

Heritage Superintendent Allen Hall said he and Heritage High School Principal Tom Davis met with Villa Grove representatives to discuss the possibility of a co-op.

The board discussed which sports would be a part of the co-op, where games would be played and who would hire coaches. It decided its first choice was to co-op all sports with Villa Grove.

Hall said if Villa Grove is not open to that idea, he will discuss just football and girls' basketball to start.

Board member Darrin Tate said he felt it would help students form an identity if all sports were in the co-op. He also thought it would be mutually beneficial to the schools to co-op football and girls' basketball. He said while Villa Grove could field a football team on its own, it was struggling with girls' basketball, and Heritage could not field its own football team.

"My attitude towards a co-op has come 180 degrees," he said. "Now I see the necessity of keeping these programs for the kids."

Board members said allowing students to participate in any sport both schools offer was the right decision.

The board agreed with the proposal that the host school should have final say on hiring coaches.

The board said it would want eligibility rules for both schools to be the same. For example, if students are caught violating the conduct code, they would face the same consequences.

The board also discussed the possibility of the co-op bumping the schools up a class in several sports. The board decided it would rather be competitive in Class 2A instead of non-existent or noncompetitive in Class 1A.

The board also discussed how schools would pay for uniforms and coaches.

Coaches would be paid based off the host school's union contract. Uniforms and team expenses would be shared and paid on a per-student basis.

The board also discussed the name of the co-op. The Heritage board felt that a new name for the team and new colors would help forge a stronger identity for the co-op.

Hall said he, Davis and two board members would be meeting with Villa Grove representatives to discuss the board's concerns. The Heritage board will discuss the issue again at its February meeting.

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