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At a special board meeting earlier this month the Heritage School board discussed an athletic co-op with Villa Grove.
Shiloh voted to explore the possibility of a co-op with Tri-County at their January meeting, leaving Heritage looking for a new athletic co-op for football.
Heritage Superintendent Allen Hall said he and Tom Davis, the Heritage High School Principal, had met with representatives from Villa Grove 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.
The board decided their 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 co-oping just football and girls basketball to start.
Parent Andy Charles said he thought the co-op should include all sports.
“When you go into a co-op you have to look at it as a marriage with the other school,” Charles said. “Being married on Monday and Tuesday but not on Wednesday isn’t going to work out very well.”
Board member Darrin Tate said he felt it would help students form an identity if the sports were all co-ooped. Plus, he felt it was mutually beneficial to the schools to co-op both sports. Tate said that while Villa Grove could field a football team on their own, they were struggling with girls basketball and Heritage could not field a football team on their own.
“My attitude towards a co-op has come 180 degrees,” he said. “Now I see the necessity of keeping these programs for the kids.”
Hall said he thought it would beneficial to co-op junior high sports as well because Villa Grove does not offer junior high volleyball and Heritage does.
“It has hurt the high school volleyball program not to have a team,” he said. “The rational is here we need Villa Grove in football and they could really use us in junior high volleyball so if they are going to help us in football maybe we should consider helping them in junior high volleyball.”
The board said they thought allowing students the ability to participate in any sport both schools offer was the right decision.
Board member Bruce Bryan said the schools complimented each other.
“There would be a lot more opportunities for the student body,” He said. “ It’s strange- in so many of these things where we are strong they are weak and vice versa.”
The board agreed with the proposal that the host school would have final say on the hiring of coaches. For example, Villa Grove will be the host school for football so therefore they will hire the football coach.
Heritage Volleyball Coach Jeremy Richards attended the meeting. He urged the board to consider if a co-op would change the district’s IHSA classification from Class 1A to 2A.
“If we get bumped up I don’t think it is worth it,” he said. ‘
The board discussed the possibility of the co-op bumping the schools up a class in several sports. The board decided they would rather be competitive at Class 2A instead of non-existent or non-competitive in Class 1A.
“First of all we have to do something to keep football,” Tate said. “Even if you are right at the 2A level it is better to be competitive in your conference than competitive at state.”
The board said they want eligibility rules for both schools to be the same. For example, if students are caught violating the conduct code they want student athletes from the two schools to face the same consequences.
“I think they have to be the same and this whole thing needs to be collaborative and already we are working on that,” said Board member Kimberly Keniley Ashbrook.
“Villa Grove has tight budgets and I’m not sure they want to spend the money on new uniforms,” he said. “If we co-op football we would use their uniforms and we would play under their colors.”
Hall said they had discussed calling the co-op the Villa Grove-Heritage co-oop.
Tate stressed that Villa Grove was working with Heritage to make a fair agreement.
“They are not holding us hostage to have football in Villa Grove,” he said. “They just dumped a lot of money on their football facilities and they think they can sell it to their communities if they get football.”
Board member John Lannon said it would not make financial sense to upkeep two football fields.
The board also discussed how schools would pay for uniforms and coaches. Coaches would be paid based off the host schools 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 thought Villa Grove would not be open to a new team name and new colors in the first year of the co-op. Students who want to cheerlead for football would also use Villa Grove uniforms.
The students who play football will be bused to Villa Grove, other students will be responsible for their own transportation.
“If a student wants to play golf, I am guessing we would say it is your responsibility to get there for practice and if they cannot afford it then they cannot do it,” Hall said. “Anything there is a large number for we would run a shuttle.”
Hall also said that the district would have to pay for the officials for next season’s games despite not playing games at Heritage.
“Those officials will not be able to get other games so we will need to pay,” he said.
The district will pay $250 per night to the officials.
Hall said he, Davis and two board members would be meeting with representatives from Villa Grove in the near future to discuss the boards concerns regarding the co-op. The Heritage board will discuss the issue again at their February meeting. Any co-op would have to be approved by the Little Okaw Valley Conference.
“The sooner we can get it to them the better,” Hall said.