The proposed building addition at Illini Central CUSD#189 is designed to address identified needs. Since 2016, the district has worked with teachers, staff and stakeholders to examine
the strengths and weaknesses of the facilities that are used to educate students. The work was facilitated by BLDD Architects and involved a number of meetings and discussions that ultimately led to the creation of a Facilities Master Plan.
The Facilities Master Plan included a campus-wide makeover that impacted every building. The district then pared this plan down based on the findings that were revealed from the process.
A number of key findings were reached through this process including:
The age and condition of the two modular classrooms requires removal. The district will have to investigate ways to replace those spaces. The modulars serve as two classrooms for the high school as well as offices and service space for the Special Education Department.
While the majority of the district’s special education teachers and providers work in the main building, some of the special education personnel and services are still located in the modular. It is essential to bring all of the staff under the same physical roof as Special Education represents about 20% of the student population. Many of these students have the greatest needs and their families have the most questions and concerns about their child’s education. Many of these students must travel outside year round in order to receive specialized services such as physical and occupational therapy. Having all of our services under one building shows that we value all students equally, regardless of need and that we welcome their parents in the process. The condition and location of that current building does not welcome this.
The district lacks flexible learning spaces that allow for 21st Century instructional approaches. Today’s students will go to work in environments that are ever changing. The traditional approaches to office spaces and businesses are no longer the norm. We need to create spaces for students to exercise autonomy and ownership over their learning. They communicate and work differently than students have in the past. In order to develop these skills, we must give the students and their teachers the space to be more creative.
Our current fitness room, which is currently located in converted classrooms is limited in space. We restrict 14 students to any single Fitness class. As a result, we turn students away.
The district has inadequate restroom and concession facilities for the outdoor athletic venues. We host a number of baseball, softball games and track and cross country meets. We make the main building available for restroom usage which represents a safety concern.
While the district has been extremely fortunate to have use of Easton gymnasium for the past 12 years, its location and availability to use throughout the day are limited. The district cannot easily transport students to the gym to use for PE classes, indoor recess and other special events during the school day. A larger space is needed than what exists on campus now. In addition, middle school athletic teams lose about 40 minutes of practice time daily because of the travel required.
While the district currently has designated public entrances with remote controlled exterior door locking systems, we can improve school-day security. Newer building designs now include restricted visitor access points. A visitor is only allowed into the office without having access to any other spaces without permission. The high school office can be reconfigured to allow this design. The grade school office as it currently sits, cannot be redesigned to accomplish this.
The addition plan that the Board is considering addresses these concerns. A number of staff members including a 16-person committee worked to further refine this plan. The $8.2 million dollar addition would accomplish:
The removal of the modulars requires the district to replace that square footage as the current building does not have the space. The Board considered the purchase of new modulars to replace the old ones, but that has a cost range of $800,000 to $1 million. The construction of a new addition would provide more permanent space that is connected to the building.
New construction would allow the district to build a new grade school office that can incorporate best practices in school security. With the new grade school office, the Special Education offices can be relocated to the current grade school space. This accomplishes the goal of moving all Special Education services inside.
The reconfiguration of the high school offices allows the district to upgrade our security measures and work to improve safety.
The addition of the fitness room would accommodate significantly larger class sizes and allow all students to choose this physical education option.
Moving the current fitness room frees up the classroom space that is lost by the removal of the second modular.
The plan includes restroom and concession facilities that can be accessed from both outside and inside the building. Automated door locks can be used to keep the rest of the building secure while the restrooms are available for outside events.
The new gymnasium contains enough space to have an indoor recess for one grade school group while allowing another to have PE class. It would allow two teams to practice side-by-side at the same time. Because students are on campus, practice times would not be lost to transportation. It would serve as our middle school gym for games.
The gym also allows the district more flexibility when responding to events and activities. When it is necessary to tarp the high school gym floor, there is still space for other PE classes or groups to meet and practice.
The flexible learning space that is incorporated in this plan allows for the small group, research and project-based learning that is vital to our students’ preparation for the future. Movable walls allow for the space to be configured in multiple ways to serve various purposes. These spaces can become fixed classrooms if needed. When they are not, it provides a perfect space for students and teachers as education needs evolve.
To fund this project, the district plans to use existing fund balances in conjunction with the sale of Alternate Revenue Bonds. These bonds are paid for through the County School Facilities Sales Tax (CSFST). This is a 1% sales tax that exists in both Mason and Logan counties on items that qualify for the normal state sales tax. Illini Central receives over $300,000 in these revenues. It is important to note that property taxes are not used to fund this debt.
On October 17, 2019, the Board will hold a hearing on a resolution of intent to sell up to $4 million in alternate revenue bonds. The Board will then consider the action later in the meeting. The sale of alternate revenue bonds is subject to a backdoor referendum if 7.5% of the registered voters living in the school district sign a petition. If this occurs, then the sale of the bonds would be placed on the March 17, 2020 primary election ballot. Without a referendum, this project is planned to begin in spring of 2020 with occupancy of the new addition in early 2021.
If anyone has questions, they are encouraged to call Mike Ward, superintendent, at 217-482-5180.