IVC District #321 to open Learning Center

for students in 2017-2018

The IVC School District is excited to announce its purchase on Wednesday, July 19th of the former Commerce Bank Building located at 1057 N. Second Street.  Commerce Bank closed the Chillicothe branch permanently at noon on September 7, 2013.   For the last 1,411 days, this empty building has welcomed residents and visitors entering the Central Business District on Second Street.  Beginning with the 2017-2018 school year, the new IVC Learning Center will become an active part of Second Street.

The Learning Center will host three vital programs for our students and community.  The three programs include: an alternative high school, a life skills independent living classroom, and evening adult learning and community meeting space.

Alternative High School Program

During the 2016-2017 school year, the IVC School District had 17 high school students attending the Peoria County Regional Office of Education (ROE) Alternative School at Wildlife Prairie State Park.  The alternative program, run by the ROE, provides an alternative setting for students who are at-risk to complete high school.  Very much like the ROE program, the purpose of the IVC Learning Center alternative program will be to bring these students back to the IVC School District and provide them with the support they need to graduate from high school and be prepared for entry into the workforce or higher education.

Students participating in the alternative school program will use a blended curriculum that includes both online learning through our Apex web-based learning system and instruction provided by IVC High School faculty.  In addition to providing a quality high school curriculum, our students attending the Learning Center, will still be able to access additional coursework and programs at IVC High School.  Unlike the ROE program, the district will provide these students with transportation to and from the Learning Center each day as well as participation in the National School Lunch program.  IVC High School Assistant Principal Bridgette Lynch will serve as the Director of the Learning Center.   We currently have 12 IVC High School students registered to participate in the alternative education program for 2017-2018.  

While we do not anticipate accepting students into this program from other school districts for the upcoming school year, we know that many of the small high schools in our area struggle with helping this group of students as well.  We will certainly consider these requests from school districts that currently do not offer alternative programming as it would help us financially as well. It is important to note that students who would be considered for this program are regular education students and must meet behavioral requirements to be eligible.

Life Skills Program

In addition to our alternative high school program, the Learning Center will also provide a new program for our special education students.  For some of our district special education students, a focus of their educational program is the ability to live and work independently after high school.  For these students, they need opportunities to plan meals, go grocery shopping, cook their meals, do laundry, make beds, and do other activities to live on their own.  The district simply does not have a facility that addresses these needs with the students.  The Learning Center will provide that opportunity.

In the back portion of the current Commerce Bank building, we will be renovating the restrooms and kitchenette area to include an efficiency-type apartment classroom where our life skills students from not only IVC High School, but CEC, Mossville, and South will be able to work on all of these life skills that will help prepare them for the workforce and independent living.  While these students will not be housed at the Learning Center, their teachers will be able to transport them to Kroger and then the Learning Center to work on these vital tasks.  We are very excited to be able to offer this new learning opportunity to these students as well!

Evening Adult Learning & Community Meeting Space

        The final use of the Learning Center will be for evening adult learning and community meeting space.  As a district, we believe it is not only our role but obligation to provide educational opportunities for all of the district’s residents.  Unfortunately, it is difficult for us to open and monitor our large school buildings for evening classes.  It is a goal of the Learning Center to work with our local labor unions, Illinois Central College, and other organizations to provide adult education opportunities that will help our residents learn new skills or potentially begin a new career or educational program.  Additionally, the size of the Learning Center will allow community groups to use the space for meetings and other activities.

While we are very excited to offer a variety of programs at the Learning Center, we are also excited to become an active partner in building a thriving Second Street.

Why the Commerce Bank Location?

The concepts of an alternative school and life skills lab classroom are certainly not new in education or the IVC School District.  Approximately 10 years ago, District Superintendent Dr. Kinney started the first alternative school within IVC High School.  Unfortunately, the high school experience in a school the size of IVC High School is difficult for some of the students who benefit from an alternative school setting.  Running the program within our current building was simply too similar to a traditional experience for many of these students who were struggling to be successful.  We believe that is why so many of our current and past students have been successful in the smaller learning environment that has been offered at Wildlife Prairie.  With the Commerce Bank facility, we are trying to offer a similar small learning environment experience, while keeping our students in the district and giving them the opportunity to still be a part of IVC High School.  

While we looked at all the buildings in Chillicothe that were for sale this spring and even discussed the possibility of renting space from Pearce Community Center, the Community Needs Agency, and the Chillicothe Park District, we felt our students and these programs needed a permanent home.  The most recent renovations to the Commerce Bank building were also completed by local architect Dennis Parkins, so we were very comfortable with the condition of the building and improvements that would need to be made.

In addition, the cost of the Commerce Building was simply too good to pass-up.  The district purchased the building for $75,000.  With the median home value in Chillicothe at $122,200 (Zillow website, July 19, 2017), the cost, size, and location of the Commerce Bank building made it the best fit for the new Learning Center.

As with all school buildings in Illinois, the IVC Learning Center must meet the state’s stringent health/life/safety code requirements to host students.  Renovations on the Learning Center will begin Thursday, July 20th, and work to make the restrooms and life skills lab classroom meet school code will begin as soon as possible.  The building must meet all building code requirements before it can be operational.  With school beginning in less than a month, the Learning Center may not open officially to students for the first day of school, but we are optimistic that it will be a short time before students and staff are enjoying the new IVC Learning Center.

The district would like to thank the Chillicothe City Council members who supported the Learning Center and approved our request for a special use permit to allow a school to be held in the Central Business District.  We are very excited to work with our new neighbors on Second Street and become a vital part of its ongoing revitalization.