The Pana School Board decided to close Jefferson Middle School in Tower Hill at the end of the current school year.
The decision was made at the November 18 Board of Education meeting after consideration at its October meeting and after meeting with the Tower Hill community on November 13.
Jefferson School, which houses 5th and 6th grade students of the Pana School district, will see its students move to buildings in Pana.
“Beginning with the 2014-1-2015 school year, Washington will house Kindergarten through 2nd grades; Lincoln will house 3rd through 5th grades; and the Junior High School will house 6th through 8th grades,” said Superintendent Dr. David Lett. “Everything will be back to where it was before the annexation.”
Tower Hill School District was annexed into the Pana District in 2003, bringing with it nearly 200 students. Enrollment in recent years in the Pana District have dropped back to the pre-annexation numbers. That, coupled with reduction in state aid, prompted the action. Closing the building is projected to save the district an estimated $800,000.
Lett noted that at the Tower Hill village board meeting, the community was understanding, but argued that the Tower Hill building had better gym space.
“We don’t know what we are going to do with the Tower Hill gym,” Lett said. “Right now we are letting Sacred Heart use it and we rent it out for organizations. We want to try to accommodate them.”
The district is also looking at how to use the former high school building, including as a satellite vocational center. In recent years, the building has been reroofed and had energy efficient windows installed. The former grade school building still has its original single-pain window. Both buildings use a boiler system, which is not as energy efficient.
“If we think there is some programming possibility, we will hold it for the future,” Lett said. “In the meantime we are moving forward with reorganization plans.”