RTHS Board: Facility improvements approved

Tennis court repair approved

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ROCHELLE — During its Monday meeting, the Rochelle Township High School Board of Education resolved to give Superintendent Jason Harper approval to go forward with improvements to the school’s STEM and agriculture labs and fitness and conditioning facilities. 

Over the past few years, the school’s finance committee has made plans for several internal facility improvements, but COVID-19 repeatedly delayed those plans, Harper said. The improvements to the school’s labs are part of an effort to improve workforce development for students entering the job market. 

Local industry stakeholders advised RTHS administration on what they’ve seen recently in the workforce and things the school could capitalize on, Harper said. The school wants to do a better job of maximizing relevant curricular opportunities so students know what they need when they get on a job site. 

“What we've talked alot about in the last 6-24 months is how we can better prepare students for their tomorrow,” Harper said. “We know not every student who leaves RTHS is going to go to a four-year school. They might not go to a two-year or trade school. The stakeholders that we have were very clear. They know we can't train them on every piece of equipment or every eventuality that might happen. But to bring greater exposure in some core areas that are flexible or high-leverage areas that can translate to multiple workforce industries is what we're going for.”

In association with three course redesigns, the school wants to “significantly” update its agriculture lab, which is primarily a lab and shop space. It’s a welding lab and shares a lot of equipment with a typical shop. There is also a separate lab that’s long been aligned with classes in the technology department. 

“We'd like to do some rebranding and other things to make it more of a STEM lab,” Harper said. “Along with those things, we need to upgrade some of our facilities. Things like power, ventilation and the buying of equipment.” 

The PE department improvements include the school’s two spaces, the weight/conditioning room and the fitness/weightlifting space. Harper said it’s time to upgrade that equipment, a portion of which was brought over from the old high school building. 

Harper said the new RTHS building is nearing 20 years old. That’s young in terms of buildings, but he believes a lot has changed over that time, necessitating more change. 

“These conversations go back quite a ways,” Harper said. “At the end of the day, I'm looking for approval of both of these programs to move ahead into purchasing and real improvement planning. With your approval we'd get some bids for equipment. Our administration can move from planning to real action. You will approve or deny the bids when they come in.”

Tennis court

The board unanimously approved a $373,064 bid from Evans & Son Blacktop, Inc. for a tennis court repair project. 

The issue came about when a crack was found across the eight main courts at the high school. The asphalt will be removed and replaced, but the rest of the infrastructure will remain. The project should result in getting “at least” another 10 years out of the tennis surface.

The construction would not occur until July 2022 so it doesn’t interfere with any of the sports seasons.

Tax levy

The board unanimously approved its tax levy for 2022. Last month, District Business Manager Kevin Dale said the district will be asking for $9,919,878. Last year it was extended $9,496.208. The increase is based on an over $20 million increase in Equalized Assessed Valuation, which is currently $472.76 million and is used to calculate the district’s tax levy. 

Dale said the district is asking for less than it did last year rate-wise and he expects the EAV to drop due to tax appeals.

Employment

The board unanimously approved the resignations of Janice Cupp (bus aide) and Jacque Johnson (school nurse) and the employment of Nancy Aldis (bus aide), Brian Andronic (volunteer, Rochelle Wrestling Club), Tyler Baker (assistant wrestling coach), Veronica Foster (Focus House paraprofessional), Rachel Livingston (bus driver) and Ellen Miller (paraprofessional). 

After saying that he had no updates on COVID-19 in his monthly school reopening agenda item at the meeting, Harper said the district is in the process of hiring a new school nurse to replace Johnson.

Music

At the beginning of the meeting, students from the RTHS band and choir program played and sang Christmas songs for the board.