Superintendent addresses school facilities discussion

·5 min read

May 27—DANVILLE — The Danville District 118 school board Wednesday night heard from Northeast Elementary Magnet School parents and teachers with concerns about the possibility of turning the school into a pre-kindergarten center.

That was one the discussions at a school board facilities study session last week.

"Nothing was decided," Superintendent Alicia Geddis said at the start of the meeting, about there also being other options.

She said the school district can't get a new building for expanding pre-k without a referendum, but the school district could have a "backdoor referendum" by initially renting a building such as on Voorhees Street. Northeast's gym and other areas also could be improved.

One of three people speaking for Northeast was sixth-grade teacher Jayme Attutis, on behalf of the staff. They suggested an option of using Liberty Elementary School for pre-k which could work in an open classroom space, or leaving it at Southwest.

"We were really hoping we can be part of this conversation," Attutis said. She also thanked school board members learning about their student population, in which the school has 42 percent white students, 25 percent Black students, multiracial, Hispanic and others.

Attutis said they were wondering how Northeast lends itself to an open concept like Liberty has and how it would affect Northeast students with special needs; could walls be put up in Liberty; there is no acreage to expand at Liberty; and Northeast would lose its track, garden and library parents and staff have worked hard on.

Board President Randal Ashton said his children attended Northeast and he's sympathetic to the parents and staff and their love for the school.

"We don't want to destroy it, wreck it ...," Ashton said, adding that they want to make Northeast better, which in turn makes the district better. "We'll do everything we possibly can."

The board doesn't have a timeline on building decisions as part of a strategic plan.

In other business, the school board approved a partnership and paying tuition for a special education and elementary cohort with Eastern Illinois University to improve access to teacher licensure. These teachers then would then work for the school district.

"We've been asking for grow your own. I think it's an excellent opportunity for us," said school board member Johnnie Carey.

Geddis said the school district would have a separate agreement with the teachers union.

This is to "increase our teaching pool and strengthen the staff dedicated to Danville District 118," she said.

The board also had a first reading on a few Ownership in Education booklet changes such as adding verbal aggression and hate speech language under an example of disciplinary infractions, and also "unexcused absence" and "unexcused tardies" for grades K-6 were updated to reflect consistency and a greater consequence for absence than tardiness.

In other business, the school board approved:

* Continuing membership with Vermilion Advantage for $6,000 for 2021.

* A budget amendment for capital projects with the CARES act coronavirus funding, that include the Danvile High School field house changes, parking lot, HVAC and auditorium sound system. The amendment accounts for additional revenues and expenses related to the Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief Grant (ESSER II) awarded under the CARES Act in addition to allocating funding toward capital projects. The proposed amendment increases the budgeted expenses by $5,877,691 and increases budgeted revenue by $3,411,118.

* A universal power supply update and switch upgrade for technology for about $130,000 with Presidio.

* Appointing Whitney Sokola as treasurer for the school district for one year effective July 1, 2021. This is Sokola's second year in the position. The treasurer position is the only position in the district that is required to be bonded, therefore the only position that is able to handle cash transactions in and out of the district on a daily basis. The board also approved an invoice for $1,862 for the issuance of her public official bond. The amount is the difference of the bond issued in March and the extended issuance for the new bond.

* Extending the mowing and snow removal contracts at their current costs, for an additional three years. According to Building and Grounds Director Skip Truex, Jon Cookus Lawncare and Midwest Asphalt Co. were the lowest bidders at the last bid opening for mowing and snow removal, respectively. "They are local contractors and have done a superb job for the district. We have received many compliments from people noticing how quickly and efficiently Midwest Asphalt has cleared snow during inclement weather. In addition, Cookus does a fantastic job keeping the grounds treated and mowed. Both contractors are very considerate of school schedules and make every effort to work around them. Again, they have both done an excellent job and I would hate to lose services from either one," according to a memo from Truex. Jon Cookus Landscaping of Danville costs: $2,500 per mow/per year and $20 per hour/per application for chemical weed control. Midwest Asphalt Co. of Tilton costs: $140 per hour.

* Purchasing a new service truck for the buildings and grounds maintenance department Both trucks were quoted at state bid price. Submitted quotes: Vermilion Chevrolet, 2021 Chevrolet Silverado, 1 ton, 4-wheel drive $31,747 and Courtesy Ford, 2022 Ford F-250, 3/4 ton, 4-wheel drive $29,934. The Ford has to be ordered from the factory and production will not start until July. It was Truex's recommendation the district purchase the new truck from Vermilion Chevrolet. Although the truck came in at a slightly higher cost, it was his recommendation since it is a heavier duty truck, and it is available at this time.

* An $837,648 contract with Venture Mechanical Contractors, Inc. of Danville to replace five boilers at Danville High School. Other bids received: $1.036 million-Reliable Plumbing and Heating Co., Danville; $999,999-Helm Service, Freeport; $881,542-A & R Mechanical Contractors, Inc., Urbana; and $1.19 million-Frank Strahl & Sons, Inc., Danville. There is a 12-week delay due to the materials shortage, Geddis reported.