Elementary board: District resolves to pursue $14-16 million in Tilton School work
Alternatives of new school, additions decided against due to high costs
ROCHELLE — At its monthly meeting Monday, the Rochelle Elementary School District Board of Education resolved to pursue $14-16 million worth of needed renovations at Tilton Elementary School.
The district recently found in a health life safety evaluation that an estimated $7.8 million worth of work is required at the school for those issues. Health life safety concerns the physical safety of the building for students and staff to occupy. The district plans to issue bonds for that money in the coming months and wants to utilize an additional $6-8 million from its reserves for other improvements involving security and spatial concerns including its pick up and drop off areas. The work will be done over "several years" with the most important health life safety issues being completed first. Work could start next summer, District Business Manager Kevin Dale said.
The board established a facilities committee to evaluate the needed improvements. It also considered alternatives to fill the needs of Tilton School students including additions at other district locations ($25-30 million cost estimate) and a new school ($30-35 million cost estimate).
The district's current bond capacity is about $17 million and any cost higher than that would have required a referendum to be voted on by district residents.
"We had discussion and considered all of these factors and we think and recommend that to be most fiscally responsible and not go to referendum, that we go ahead with giving Tilton the complete facelift to satisfy everything in the health life safety survey, bond out for that approximately $8 million and then use an additional $6-8 million from our reserves to address the security and spatial concerns that we have, maybe including some additional space for offices or classrooms," Board President and Facilities Committee Member Trisha Vaughn said. "This would total about $14-16 million for the total project and wouldn't max us out on what we're able to bond out and we'd also plan to complete this project over several years."
Board Member Dave Casey said he believes the $30-35 million number for a new school is "low" and the cost if that path was taken could be higher than that as construction costs have risen recently.
"I think a new school would be more than that," Casey said. "With the health life safety being able to extend those out over several years, that allows us to also be able to keep the kids there and try to do more of that work during the summers and off times over several years. And with potential additional space, we're busting at the seams at that school. That would allow for more classroom space. Cost-wise and for the taxpayers, it seems to make the most sense."
The facilities committee also discussed the asset of Tilton's School's ease of walkability when considering options.
Dale said the goal of the planned renovation work is to get "at least another 20 years" out of the Tilton School building.
"This way we are able to actually do a complete face lift and try to repair everything that was listed that includes asbestos tiles, roofing and windows," Dale said. "It involves painting and redoing the interiors of classrooms so it looks like a brand new, nice, fresh look. It will take multiple years. We don't want to have to displace students and a project that size could take more than one summer."
Superintendent Jason Harper said next month's meeting will see the district bring a "sharper financial outlook" on the issue to the board. The borrowing process could start in October or November.
The board held a public hearing for and unanimously approved its fiscal year 2024 budget.
During the hearing, Dale walked the board through the budget's numbers.
In the education fund, there is an estimated fund balance of $7.968 million with revenue of $18.26 million and expenditures of $17.809 million. In operations and maintenance, there is a fund balance of $6.879 million with revenue of $1.941 million and expenditures of $1.933 million. The debt service fund has a fund balance of $905,264 with revenue of $1.349 million and expenditures of $1.361 million. The transportation fund has a fund balance of $478,253 with revenue of $956,593 and expenditures of $1.340 million. The IMRF/social security fund has a fund balance of $798,153 with revenue of $467,395 and expenditures of $361,402.
The board heard new teacher introductions at the meeting from all of the district's building principals. Lincoln School has two new teachers, Central School has five new teachers, Tilton School has five new teachers and Rochelle Middle School has four new teachers. Stepping Stones Preschool does not currently have any new teachers.
"It's a big group of teachers who have come in," Harper said. "We're excited to have them with us. I'd also like to celebrate Mrs. Prestegaard from the middle school who leads our mentor and new teacher program. Last year we overhauled our onboarding program and she's had a huge hand in that along with instructional support, curriculum support, our administrators and teachers who have an interest in this. It's been a really robust program that these teachers have gone through and will continue to go through throughout the school year."
The board unanimously approved personnel changes including the resignation of Lindsay Ditmars (speech language pathologist) and the transfer of Angel Cruz (paraprofessional at Tilton to part-time substitute teacher).