VILLA GROVE — The school board held a public forum this week to seek input and suggestions on several issues that will affect not only the upcoming school year, but also the future of the school and its students.
"We are not in a sustainable situation. So we are going to have to get creative to become sustainable," said Board member Greg Gulick about the projected $736,000 deficit that the board is facing next year.
The board already had a three-year plan in place to correct a $686,000 deficit from this year's budget. A budget reduction of $229,000 was already planned, but the lack of state funding projected for next year has added an estimated $507,000 to the deficit. The board has set a new budget reduction goal of $500,000.
On the list of possible cuts provided by the board are seven teaching positions and one custodial position. This proposal includes reducing kindergarten and first-grade classrooms to two instead of three. The reduction or elimination of all fine arts programs and building trades classes is also on the table. Reduction-in-force notices must be presented to staff in danger of losing their jobs by April 1 or they are guaranteed a job for next year.
"We have to make decisions about the programs and staff for next year when so many important pieces of information are still not known, such as the final outcome of state funding," said Superintendent Steve Poznic. "Those decisions are made about programs and people we value who have done very good things for our students at Villa Grove. It is a painful process and very disruptive to students, teachers and families."
Parents at the meeting urged others to support a 1 percent sales tax on the ballot for Douglas County in April. The revenue generated from this tax supports facility improvements at all Douglas County schools and could generate over $300,000 for the Villa Grove school district.
The proposed sport cooperative was also discussed as a way to save the district money and help support the district's sports programs.
Reaction from the community to the cooperative proposal has been mixed. While some think it will take opportunities away from Villa Grove athletes, others see it as an opportunity to provide more player development and increase the competitive level of the teams.
Details of the cooperative have still not been finalized. Board member Bill Bozdech said the board has sought input from others involved in co-op agreements and many said to be successful a full co-op of all sports is needed. A decision on football must be made by the next Little Okaw Valley Conference meeting on March 20th to get a schedule in place.
"The days of 150 students in a high school are about gone. The state administration is sending us down the road (to consolidation)." Bozdech said. "This co-op might be a good way to start that process. If we start now, we have some control over our destiny. If we wait much longer, we could be forced into it by the state."