Whitko School Board votes to close middle school

LARWILL, Ind. (WANE) – The Whitko Community School Corporation spans two counties and five townships. School board members saw communities divided about how to consolidate the schools.

More than a year ago it was decided Whitko Community Schools had to consolidate. At Monday’s School Board meeting we got a full picture of how that will work.

Whitko Middle School will close. Sixth graders will go to the two elementary schools, and seventh and eighth graders will go to Whitko High School in South Whitley.

“I feel really relieved,” 8th Grader Hailey Arnold said.

It wasn’t an easy decision by the School Board.

“It’s been a long 14 months,” Board Member Eric Trump said. “It’s taken a toll on our health. We’re just trying to do what’s best for Whitko.”

For a lot of people it came down to location. The people of South Whitley wanted the high school to remain in town.

“I feel like when I start driving I won’t want to drive down [State Road] 5 when it’s icy and snowy,” Arnold said.

However, those in Pierceton would’ve had a shorter trip if consolidation happened at the more centrally located middle school in Larwill.

“For Pierceton it’s 13 miles,” Trump said.

Trump voted against consolidating into the high school.

“I voted no because I am from the Pierceton community, and I want Pierceton to know they have a voice,” Trump said.

Both Trump and Arnold want Whitko to move forward not as several communities, but one school district.

“My fear through this whole thing is it did divide our communities,” Trump said. “I don’t want to see those friends pulled apart. I want to see us pull together.”

The district’s Superintendent, Steve Clason, said it would cost about $400,000 to get the high school ready to house all the students for next school year. He said the Board will reevaluate the situation every year.

Clason said not much will need to happen at the elementary schools to add another grade because declining enrollment has left several classrooms empty at the schools.