Westville considers meeting over joining other districts
WESTVILLE — School officials say they are interested in meeting with nearby districts to discuss ways to combine high schools to improve finances and expand opportunities for students.
Westville Superintendent Jim Owens said he was recently contacted by Catlin Superintendent Gary Lewis about getting together, along with other nearby school officials, to look at options for their districts' futures.
Catlin school board members voted last week to have Lewis explore high school reorganization options — consolidation, cooperatives and deactivation — with the other four southern Vermilion County districts: Oakwood, Jamaica, Westville and Georgetown-Ridge Farm.
Owens said Westville hosted a meeting of school officials from those five districts in May to discuss reorganization options for their high schools, but that some of the officials gave the idea "a cool reception," and a follow-up meeting planned for June was canceled.
Still, Owens said he thought the talks "need to happen," and that he was glad to hear that other southern Vermilion County school officials were open to discussing those issues.
"I am hopeful that we can continue to talk and find ways to help all the south-county districts and provide opportunities for our kids," Owens said.
Owens said that he suggested that Catlin officials consider deactivating their high school and sending their 160 students to Westville High School. Westville High currently has 340 students but can accommodate up to 600 students, Owens said, and the two villages are only 4 miles apart.
The Westville school district has about $6.3 million in reserves, has not had to cut staff for financial reasons for two years, is expanding its business and industrial education programs, and is close to having a 1:1 ratio of computers to students. Westville High has 87 students enrolled in College Express courses at Danville Area Community College, and another 54 students are taking courses that earn them both high school and college credit.
"Westville is a viable district," Owens said. "We want to see the good things in the district continue."
Board Vice President Bob Clifford said he was open to ideas that would benefit the district.
Board President Shawn Bennett said that a single, southern Vermilion County high school seems to be in the future, and that it was a good idea to look at the option now, instead of waiting until the districts were in financial crises.
Owens pointed out a bound report on the bookshelf of the board's meeting room from the Committee for Study of Education in Southern Vermilion County Illinois that recommended forming a single unit high school to serve most or all of the southern Vermilion County students.
The report was published in 1967.