Should Vigo County Consider One Large High School? Unifying the City/County


The time has come for Terre Haute and Vigo County get serious. Taxpayers are going to be asked for boat load of property tax increases very soon. Maybe Vigo County should really think this one through. The hard thinking, that is uncomfortable most of the time, until it becomes exciting when you realize the potential for change that is just within reach.

New Vigo County School Terre Haute North option being considered.
One Proposed Option for New Vigo County High School

Academy Sports Basketball Courts, Lily Chemistry Lab, Stadler Tax Services Accounting Class. Gibson everything else. Terre Haute Schools need Corporate Sponsors. Duke Bennett loves this private/public hodgepodge of a Convention Center, lets use it where 4,000 students could benefit and not just a couple of downtown business owners.

The Vigo County School Corporation will be balancing the budget and trimming some fat over the next two years. That’s the time frame school administrators are looking to again ask the voters of Vigo County to make an investment in local education.

In May 2021 a referendum for a Capital Improvement Project will be put on the ballot for all residents of Vigo County. Similar to Nov. 5, 2019’s referendum, the one in May will ask for a property tax increase to build or replace the 3 high schools in Vigo County.

The School Corporation has developed 5 different plans that over the next two years will be discussed, debated, and presented to the public for its input. The School Administration presented the different plans to the School Board in Sept. 2017.

The one option that has not been considered is a unified Terre Haute Central High School.

This option would allow the taxpayers to get the best cost per student on a new school facility.

As the School Corporation published on its website in the first referendum request, Vigo County Schools were falling behind school corporations like Wayne, Perry, Noblesville, Warren, and Lawrence. The school corporation wants to use those school districts as the bar that is set, then a closer look at what they have done might be justified.

Vigo County School Corporations Presentation Showing Why Vigo County Is Falling Behind

Starting with M.S.D. Wayne, it has one high school Ben Davis. Grades 10-12 with a student population of 3200 and a 9th grade learning center separate.

Perry Township has two high schools, Perry Meridan and Southport each with approximately 2300 students grade 9-12.

Noblesville School district has one high school with an enrollment of 3030.

M.S.D. Warren has one high school, Warren Central with an enrollment of just under 3900.

M.S.D. Lawrence has two high schools. Lawrence North and Lawrence Central with 2600 and 2300 each. Approx.

Carmel-Clay has one high school. Carmel, with an enrollment will over 5200 students.

Vigo County has a Total High School enrollment of just over 4000. That population is expected to decline over the next 10 years to an estimated 3982 as show in the chart below.

2013201420152016201720182019202020212022202320242025202620272028
91305133312791368133412051225119312261206121911891153117312281242
10117510831127108711161085100510209951021100510179899639771026
111089109810541061100510561008932948923948933944918894906
129929711000945946907954912842858835857844854830808
High School Total4561448544604461440142534192405740114008400739963930390839293982

A total High School enrollment hovering around 4000 students would indicate that ONE central high school would be along the same size as Warren Central, a little larger than Noblesville and a little smaller than Carmel. Those are the school districts put forth by the Vigo County School Corporation as role models for growth, use of tax dollars, investment in community, and how well a community will attract business.

West Vigo High School has an estimated population of approx. 525-550 total high school students and West Vigo Middle School has an estimated enrollment of 375-425 in next decade and beyond.

Otter Creek and Honey Creek Middle Schools each have enrollment close to 800 students, while Sarah Scott has an enrollment of close to 400.

Consolidating West Vigo High School into the one Central High School, or Two New High High Schools would save anywhere from $39million to $66million in construction cost.

This option was not presented as part of the feasibility study given to the school board or the public. The idea of a New Large East Side High School that would consolidate North and South it presented as option #5, but it also includes $66 million to build a brand new West Vigo Middle and High School.

A New Large Terre Haute Central High School located along the Banks of the Wabash on the property already owned by the City that nobody wants. This location might prove to be centrally located and offer the revitalization of the riverfront that Terre Haute and Vigo County has been seeking for many years.

The utilization of current resources, and a merging of community resources might be the an option to help unify the City. One team mascot, one school to support with corporate sponsors and eventually wealthy alumni. The best of the best for all students. Keep classroom sizes correct, bigger band, choir, sports teams and all with the best equipment. Show case the school along a new river walk. Connected to Fairbanks park via the Greg Gibson river walk proudly brought to you by ROCKSINO gambling. Artificial Turf football fields sponsored by The Terre Haute Convention and Visitors Bureau. Duke Bennett Baseball field, and the Terre Haute Fire Department Track and Field House. Plasse and Loudermilk Vocational Training Center. Union Health Sports Medicine office, and Hamilton Center Mental Health Care Clinic. All on site. Every man, woman and child, politician, businessman, grandma and grandpa, aunt and uncle in Vigo County would instantly be connected to each other by knowing a student or staff member at a New Unified Terre Haute High School. Big can be bad. Big could be beautiful, safe, secure, and have the combined resources of an entire community to support it.

Many Terre Haute should be bold. Turn the page and look to next generation of its potential instead of putting a fresh coat of lipstick on the pig.

There are many drawbacks to having large schools, but according to several research studies done, most of those benefits are seen in schools with populations well under 900 students. Several publications list the benefits of small schools as being achieved when school enrollment is under 400.

https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ovae/pi/hs/schoolsize.html

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-americans-build-and-why/201104/big-school-small-school-does-school-size-matter

So, with the proposals outlined by the Vigo County School Corporation the only school that reaps the benefits of all these factors, 400-500 students, and a brand new facility would be West Vigo. Go Vikings!

West Vigo High School would receive the most benefit from the current building proposals.

Apples to Apples or Apples to Oranges….

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