By DEBORAH GERTZ HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
CARTHAGE, Ill. -- Illini West hopes working with its neighbors could better serve students while saving money.
The district plans to share a teacher with West Prairie and look into possible changes to its transportation system.
"Obviously what's driving this is lack of funding from the state," School Board President Tracey Anders said. "As districts we've got to work together and get creative."
Superintendent Kim Schilson has met with her counterparts in the Carthage, Dallas City and LaHarpe elementary districts to talk about sharing bus service as a way to lower transportation costs.
"We would like to centralize the transportation with Illini West taking responsibility to provide that and bill the elementary districts for their portion," Schilson said.
The three elementary districts feed into Illini West High School. Carthage currently transports Illini West students on its buses, but Dallas City, LaHarpe and Illini West "have buses going up and down the same roads," Schilson said.
Schedule issues among the district would need to be worked out, but "we feel it can with the eight-block schedule we're starting next year," Anders said. "We can cost-share, maybe not need as many buses, not as many routes and have more kids on a bus and help us all out."
Carthage Superintendent Vicky Hardy and Dallas City and LaHarpe Superintendent Jo Campbell plan to discuss the issue with their boards.
Districts are looking to save on transportation costs as state reimbursement continues to drop. The state reimburses districts for 80 percent of some transportation costs this year, but school officials fear that could drop to 20 percent for the 2013-14 year.
Sharing the district's business teacher with neighboring West Prairie also makes financial sense for Illini West.
"We both have a need, a part-time need," Anders said. "She will still be our employee, but she also will go to West Prairie."