By Wade Coggeshall
AVON — After a few months of deliberation, the school corporation here has decided to withdraw from a co-op that serves its special education students.
Superintendent Margaret Hoernemann recommended the move. The school board voted unanimously in support of the recommendation at its February meeting. Board member Mark Buckley was absent because of sickness.
The idea of leaving West Central Joint Services - which also serves Brownsburg, Danville, and Plainfield, among others - was first discussed by the board in November. Membership includes access to the Sanders School, a day program for students who need more support than what their home district can provide. Avon had 11 students enrolled there as of November.
Hoernemann noted enrollment at Sanders has grown dramatically. Close to 90 students attend there, with another dozen expected soon.
"If I were to design the perfect environment, I'm not sure it would have 100 youngsters with such high needs," Hoernemann said. "That would also be a benefit to bringing our youngsters closer to home - to serve them in a smaller environment."
The Avon Community School Corporation plans to opt out of West Central Joint Services as of the 2014-15 school year.
"This is something that's been under consideration for a while, primarily because we think we've outgrown the co-op," Hoernemann said.
She called the co-op a "wonderful partner" for students who are blind or deaf or with limited vision or hearing, as well as those enrolled at Sanders.
"However, as we have all grown quite a bit, we now believe we can serve these youngsters closer to home and perhaps serve them even better than we have," Hoernemann said.
The year-and-a-half interval is meant to give Avon time to establish a new special education program and give as much advanced warning to the other members of West Central Joint Services as possible.
"This isn't something we'd undertake lightly," Hoernemann said. "It would've been premature and inappropriate of us to pursue a new program without permission from the board to withdraw from the existing program."
Parents of Avon students served by West Central Joint Services are being contacted personally about the decision. Hoernemann pledged to work directly with these parents and staff to develop a new program closer to home. The Wayne Township Metropolitan School Corporation currently operates the Sanders School.
"This is an exciting opportunity to re-evaluate what's best for our kids," board member Pam DeWeese said after the vote.