PBL school board hears construction update

By ROSS BROWN
bluehavanaross@gmail.com


PAXTON — Members of the Paxton-Buckley-Loda school board received an update on the Clara Peterson Elementary School renovation/expansion project at their Nov. 15 meeting.

Chuck Reifsteck of Reifsteck-Reid, the Champaign-based architectural firm overseeing the project, told the board that his firm had completed 50 percent of the design plans and that 75 percent would be due the following Friday. Once the plans are complete, Gilbane Inc., a Chicago-based construction management firm, would follow with cost estimates.

Reifsteck displayed several brick colors that would be included in the exterior of a 63,000-square-foot addition to the school’s east side. Reifsteck said the ground floor of the addition would feature a similar brick color to that of the existing building to the west. The corners of the addition would have a dark-brown color, with a lighter color on the outside of the top floor.

The new gymnasium would have a precast concrete exterior, which Reifsteck said is similar to PBL Junior High School’s gymnasium.

The interior of the building includes some unique features. The cafeteria will have an open staircase connecting it to the second floor, and bleachers will be placed on part of the staircase, forming a location where assemblies could take place, Superintendent Cliff McClure said.

The building’s new library would feature green and brown-colored panels suspended from the ceiling to mimic a tree canopy. In addition, Reifsteck said a rising curved wall in the middle of the floor space would make a quiet location for students to read their books.

Brian Mrozak, project manager for Gilbane, gave an update on the timeline for the project’s completion. In spring 2018, Mrozak said, a gravel road would be placed along the perimeter of the new addition. Once the project is wrapped up, Mrozak said, asphalt would be poured over the road for a permanent surface around the school.

Other parts of the project this spring include a new playground on the south side of the school. A new staff parking lot is expected to be completed during the summer break, near the current parking lot location on the southwest side of the building.

Preliminary levies approved
Board members approved two levy items, as well, during the Nov. 15 meeting.

The first was a lease levy resolution, which McClure said would allow the school district to purchase new technology, while the second was the proposed 2017 district levy.

McClure said there is a 3.9 percent increase in the aggregate levy and a 2.9 percent increase in the overall levy. However, McClure noted that the county’s assessment went up substantially, causing an increase in the equalized assessed value (EAV) of the district.

Board member Steve Pacey of Paxton voted “no” on both measures, with all other board members approving the levy.

“I understand that the total levy is not going to be any different than last year, but I am not going to vote to extend a new tax — even though it’s a small amount and the total levy’s going to remain the same,” Pacey said.

McClure followed up Pacey’s comments with a clarification about the levy amount.

“I decreased the rate in other funds, so the actual rate is going to be lower than last year’s,” McClure said. “The EAV has gone up, so there’s more money that we will receive.”

Other business
In other business at the Nov. 15 meeting:

➜ The board approved the following volunteer coaches: Ted Powers for PBL High School boys’ basketball and Colin Sullivan, Don Humes and Jacob Meyers for PBL High School wrestling. Pacey voted “no."

➜ The board heard from representatives of Aramark, the company that provides food services for the district. Meal participation has increased at the district over the last year, which employees have attributed to an expanded breakfast menu, specific food entrée promotions and additional a la carte options. Overall, the district has seen a 6.3 percent participation increase through the first two months of the school year versus last year, while the breakfast program has seen a 3.5 percent increase. McClure said he has heard students say that they enjoy having more choices and that the school is working through the changes over in-house service last year. Currently, McClure said, students have three choices of lunch at the district’s two elementary schools and six at the junior high and high school.

➜ McClure said the district has yet to receive a categorical payment from the state, but he remains hopeful that one will arrive soon.

➜ PBL High School Principal Travis Duley gave a presentation on course changes. Duley said Parkland College has begun offering credit courses for juniors on-campus through an early transfer program. Duley mentioned that the computer course is being phased out and replaced with a “computer concepts” class that would be a single-quarter class consisting of half keyboarding and half Microsoft Office-based applications. Duley said some students do not have basic keyboarding skills and other knowledge of computer applications, hence the course change. Eighth-grade students would take a proficiency test, which, if passed, would allow them to bypass the course. Duley also mentioned that he is switching from the Keystone online course to Edmentum for students taking credit recovery online. Duley said Edmentum offers $77 per student for multiple courses that a student could take, while Keystone prices its options at $160 per course.

➜ PBL High School English teacher Nancy Streitmatter said an SAT preparatory course is being considered for the spring semester before juniors are required to take the nationwide exam. She said that material would be taught on 12 Sundays beginning in January. Students who have taken courses in the past have seen a 90 point increase in their scores, she said. The cost is $180 per student, while she said that costs are $1,800 for personnel and $230 for materials.

➜ Kevin Schnebly addressed the board with a proposal to create a bass fishing team at PBL High School. Schnebly said he has a son in eighth grade. Schnebly said the team would be more like a club at the school, and it would meet on school grounds the majority of the time. The co-ed team would participate in area tournaments and could be entered into the Illinois High School Association’s state meet in the spring. The benefits, he said, are the education and application, student-run and participation in various community activities, and he said scholarships are available. Schnebly said he would need a faculty supervisor, meeting space and volunteers with background checks provided by the district.

➜ Ford County Special Education Cooperative Director Jesse McFarling said an auditor found no major problems with the co-op’s finances and that $14,000 in personnel reimbursements were recently handed out.

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