THOMSON – Facing declining enrollment and reduced state aid, officials at West Carroll School District, which has schools in Mount Carroll, Savanna and Thomson, are discussing whether to close West Carroll Intermediate School.
Thomson residents attended a public meeting in the gym Wednesday to voice concerns about closing the building, which is used as a district office and also houses preschool and some special education programs.
Board President Mike Highland said the district has lost 255 students since its inception, and closing the building could save between $167,000 and $200,000.
The West Carroll Board of Education agreed later that night that answers to questions raised would be presented at the March 20 board meeting, although there will be no vote on the matter at that time.
Audience members asked if there was another way to save money, and if the board has considered all of the school buildings or is only focusing on Thomson Intermediate. They asked for more concrete numbers.
“This is our heart, this is our soul. We built it. Nobody helped us pay for it,” said Janis Wilt, who was involved in getting the school built. “So I want you to think twice before you spend money in other towns and close ours.”
Board member Jerry Anderson said he has thought about the matter, and although he does not want to close the building, it may be necessary.
Board member Mike Klein said they have gone line by line looking for ways to save money. “We’re down to where we can’t find pennies anymore to cut, and we’re still in the red,” he said.
The only other things they could cut would be an extra band instructor, extracurricular activities and classes not mandated by the state, Klein said.
The crowd brought up the idea of activity fees or other ways to raise money.
If the 1-cent sales tax had been approved a couple of years back, the district might not be in this trouble, Highland said.
The audience also suggested the board shouldn’t make a decision until they know what is happening with the Thomson prison, which has been bought by the federal government but not yet opened.
“If we keep waiting on the prison, we won’t have to consider. We’ll be so far in debt we’ll be done,” Anderson said.
Board member Beverly Kilpatrick also asked that they wait until after Oct. 1, when they might know what is going on with the prison and the teachers’ contract has been finalized.
Tim Atherton, a Thomson representative on the board, agreed they will not know if they can fit all of the students in three buildings until teacher negotiations are finished and they have agreed on class sizes.