Alternative School Coming To Raymond

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At risk students in Montgomery County and other school districts in Regional Office of Education (ROE) District #3 will have a new place to continue their education next year after the Panhandle Board of Education approved a lease agreement with ROE to start an alternative school program on the campus in Raymond.

At the board meeting on Dec. 17, ROE Superintendent of Schools Julie Wollerman said the alternative school is geared toward truant, dropout or unsuccessful students in grades nine through 12 with an ultimate goal of raising "good neighbors" and giving them the best chance to go on to the next step in their lives, whether it be college, trade school, the military or the work force.

Wollerman said that they also have a junior high safe schools program for sixth, seventh and eighth grade students who have been suspended or expelled. Capacity is expected to be 45 students, with 30 in the high school and 15 in the junior varsity, but the school isn't expected to be at capacity in its first year.

The three year agreement calls for a $37,500 lease fee per year, which includes utilities, custodial fees and a rental fee. Superintendent Aaron Hopper provided the board with a breakdown of the estimated costs, which included additional part-time custodial help if needed.

Board member Scott Cowdrey asked if the board could end the relationship if it wasn't a good fit for the district. Hopper said they could, but only after the initial three year agreement.

The agreement also called for an automatic renewal if the district did not make a decision by March of the year the agreement ends. Board president Terri Payne said she felt that the district should be able to negotiate the price before the automatic renewal, in case utility costs or other costs increase. 

Hopper said he could add language to the agreement that would require a mutually agreed upon cost before the new contract would go into affect.

Cowdrey asked if Hopper had visited the other ROE #3 alternative school in Vandalia. Hopper said he had and it was a good visit. He added that the alternative school will also offer some alternatives to out of school suspension, which could be beneficial to the Panhandle School District.

Cowdrey also asked if the Panhandle teachers had any issues with the school. Hopper said he had spoken with them and there were no major concerns.

The motion would pass by a 6-1 margin, with board member Shane Gilpin voting against the agreement. Gilpin expressed concern over the district's liability if a problem between a Lincolnwood student and an alternative school student would occur. He added that he felt like there was potential for an issue and that the district shouldn't take that risk if they didn't have to.

Lincolnwood Principal Kendal Elvidge said that the alternative school will have discipline measures in place and said that some of the schools will provide transportation for the students, which will limit the chances for interaction even further. Board member Brett Slightom said that he didn't believe the district would be any more liable than in cases where the school is used by other groups, like dance recitals and fundraisers.

In addition to the alternative school, the other big ticket item on the agenda was the replacement of the high school roof. The board would vote to accept the bid from Top Quality of Mt. Zion in the amount of $543,000 for the replacement of the roof and an alternate bid of $42,300 for work on siding that had been damaged by recent winds.

Tom Hyde of Graham and Hyde Architects of Springfield was on hand and said that Top Quality was the lowest of three bidders. He said that the company was also the lowest bidder for an alternate TPA (plastic) roof option, but he was hesitant to recommend the TPA roof because it was a newer product he didn't have as much experience with.

Hyde said that the cost of phase one of the roof project, the replacement of the auditorium roof that was done last year, was $167,000. The total cost for both phases of the project was $743,000.

The district plans to use at least $280,000 in district funds from the one percent sales tax earmarked for facilities for the project and had $893,000 available from health/life safety bonds. Hopper said that the district doesn't have to buy all of the health/life safety bonds at once, but should consider having a hearing for the full amount so the funds are available if needed.

Slightom asked if Hyde had experience with Top Quality. Hyde said he did not have personal experience, but others in his company had worked with them on projects in Sullivan, Arcola and Memorial Hospital in Springfield and had no problems.

Payne asked if there was a liquidated damages clause, something the board wanted after delays in the auditorium roof project with a different company. Hyde said that there would be a $1,500 fee assessed per day after the deadline.

The board briefly discussed the replacement of the siding, with Cowdrey asking about the aesthetic of going from the current copper siding to a different metal. Hyde said that if the district goes with a similar color, he doubts anyone would notice. If the district changes to the beige-ish color that is on the grade school, people would notice, but he's not sure how much concern it would draw. The board opted to go with a similar color to the copper to match the other siding on the high school building.

In other business, Hopper updated the board on the Mid-State Special Education reorganization. He said that two-thirds of the schools had approved the measure and the governing board would meet for a final vote on March 25.

The board also approved the purchase of computers for the one-to-one program for the 2019-2020 school year, which pairs a freshman student with a computer for their high school term.

Hopper said that the new computers are similar to the ones the freshmen received last year, but a newer model. He said that there are approximately 20 computers that were turned back in by last year's seniors and those are used on a mobile cart for the junior high.

Slightom asked if more computers were expected to be turned in from this year's senior class, who have the option of keeping them. Elvidge said that was the hope and those too would be put to use in the junior high.

Before moving on to administrative reports, Hopper would speak about purchasing another activity bus for the district. The company that sold the district their current activity bus said that they will soon have another used bus that is three years newer  with a similar amount of miles to the one that they had purchased.

He added that the bus would not replace the one the district currently has, but would provide extra transportation options, rather than using the vans that have 150,000-plus miles on them.

Gilpin said he liked the idea, but asked what the maintenance on the buses was compared to that of the vans. Hopper said he would get that information from Jason Wagahoff before a final decision was made.

Administrative Reports

In his administrative report, Hopper thanked everyone for supporting the seventh and eighth grade volleyball teams, both of whom participated in the IESA state tournament this year. He also spoke about the passing of Keith Van, a student at Lincolnwood Junior High.

Board member Dana Pitchford said that both Hopper and Elvidge did an excellent job at the celebration of life held for Van. There are currently several fundraisers going on for Van's family and the Lincolnwood special education department in Van's memory, including T-shirt sales and #Keithstrong reminder bands.

The Lincolnwood softball team will also be hosting a bake sale and family double feature movie night on Saturday, April 13, at 5 p.m. with all donations going to the cause.

Hopper also mentioned the Raymond Grade School family reading night held on March 7, the Kiwanis pancake supper on March 7 and the Young Author Awards, which were held on March 14 for the building level and will be held on March 26 in the Lincolnwood cafeteria for the district level.

Hopper will also be attending the spring Kaskaskia Division meeting in Carlinville on March 26 and mentioned that Illinois Assessment of Readiness testing will begin on March 25 and go through April 12. Students in third through fifth grade will be taking five tests in English language arts and math.

In the Farmersville Grade School report, Principal Chris Paproth mentioned the visit from Delta Dental of Illinois with a dental health presentation and the Jump Rope for Heart event, which raised a school record $4,880 for the American Heart Association. All students participated and the top fundraisers were recognized. Those students who raised $100 or more were given the opportunity to shoot silly string at Principal Paproth.

Farmersville has been hosting the PTO Spring Book Fair since March 18, with the final day set for March 21, with a presentation by magician Chef Bananas at 6:30 p.m.

Paproth's report also noted that Jim Gill will be performing in the Raymond Grade School gym for preschool families from Panhandle Morrisonville and Nokomis on March 28, there will be a "Touch the Truck" event for the preschool on April 11 at the Farmersville square, and there will be a mini petting zoo on April 17, for the preschool.

In the Lincolnwood Junior High and High School report, Elvidge commended the volleyball teams for their success and said that softball and baseball have been slowed by cold, wet weather.

He also mentioned that this is the time of year seniors should be investing time into scholarship research and that he and Caleb Kirkpatrick were reviewing the scheduling process to begin building the 2019-2020 schedules.

The board would enter into closed session at 8:01 p.m. and would reconvene at 8:51 p.m. They would approve the resignation of James Whalen as junior high assistant baseball coach and Jennifer Myles as Lincolnwood clerical/in-house substitute.

The board would also hire Lindsay Pope as kindergarten teacher and Justin Millburg as Lincolnwood High School girls basketball head coach for the 2019-2020 school year.

Both Pope and Millburg are graduates of Lincolnwood High School and have worked in the district - Pope as a paraprofessional at Farmersville Grade School and Millburg as a basketball coach at the high school and junior high levels.

The meeting would adjourn at 8:54 p.m. The next meeting for the board will be on Monday, April 15, at 7 p.m.

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