The History of Lerna High School
Lerna (population 322) is located in eastern Illinois about six miles southwest of Charleston. This places Lerna in the southwest portion of Coles County. The town is located on County Highway 9 just east of County Highway 19. Interstate Highway 57 looms about 3 miles to the west. The Eastern Illinois Railroad angles through town to the northeast, cutting through the center of Lerna. The town was platted in 1882.
We only know about the former high school in Lerna from a newspaper article published in the Journal Gazette and Times Courier of Mattoon and Charleston. The article can be viewed at the web address of http://www.jg-tc.com/articles/1998/04/08/news/news-76247.txt. In regards to Lerna High School the article states:
“The 63 school districts in eastern Coles County were replaced on July 1, 1948, by one school district with 23 attendance centers.
Lerna’s school was maintained as an attendance center but its high school students were sent to Charleston.
Ralph Closson of Mattoon was principal at Lerna High School in 1948. He said Lerna’s sophomores and juniors were exceptional at sports and academics that year, so many people hated to see them sent to another school.
“I think the students were better off being in a big school like Charleston,” Closson said.
Closson said Charleston was able to offer the high school students more academic and extracurricular choices than were available at Lerna.
The University of Illinois’ College of Education conducted a survey of the new district shortly after it was created.
Music and physical education classes were added to the curriculum of the remaining schools after consolidation, the survey reported, and health service was also extended to each school.
However, Closson said Lerna’s high school students still needed a lot of time to adjust to their new school environment.
“It was a big change for students from a high school where all the students had individual attention,” Closson said.
Story said she saw many new faces at Lincoln Elementary School after consolidation but she noted that the students from each rural school stuck together.
“It was a close-knit group,” Story said. “In a small school you will find that.”
Consolidation may have cost Lerna its high school students but it brought the school more classroom space, Closson said.
Closson said Lerna’s school had four classrooms on the second floor for its high school students and four classrooms for its other students on the first floor, with two grades to each classroom, before consolidation.
After consolidation, Lerna’s school put the seventh and eighth graders on the second floor and spread out the other grades on the first floor. Lerna’s school also turned a vacant classroom into a lunch room, Closson said.”
Randy Vaultonburg tells us the original Lerna High School building stayed in use as a grade school until 1968. The school was soon after torn down and houses built on the school grounds.
Lerna High School Quick Facts
Year opened: late 1800s
Year closed: 1948
Consolidated to: Charleston School DIstrict
First team nickname: “Blue Devils”
Eventual team nickname: “Bull Dogs”
Lerna HS team colors: Blue & Gold
School Fight Song: unavailable