Litchfield Board Approves Bids For New School Building

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The Litchfield School Board took the next step in building the new elementary school on State Street as part of their regular board meeting on Tuesday evening, Sept. 21, at Litchfield High School.

With all board members present, they approved 15 bid packages for the project. Pre-cast concrete and steel packages were awarded at the August meeting.

Eric Lohman of Poettker Construction presented the bids to the board, and said he felt they had good coverage of the bids. He added that all bids came within the budget of the project.

Prior to the vote, board member Mike Fleming said he took the time to review all the bids, and found each one to be incomplete. He cited different issues, in that some financial statements were not included. Other times, it was addendums that were not done.

“In good conscience, I can’t vote for these bids,” Fleming said. “I have to make sure we’re spending the money they best way we can. I don’t feel 100 percent confident these bids have been completely reviewed. I will vote no on all these, although I am all for the building project. The devil’s in the details, and this could ultimately fall back on the district.”

Fleming asked Lohman if companies would supply performance bonds and lien waivers, and Lohman said they are submitted with pay requests.

For each of the 15 bid packages, Fleming voted no, and board member Gregg Hires voted present. The motions would pass 5-1-1 with all other board members voting in favor of the bids.

Concrete and general trades bids were awarded to Litteken Construction Company for $3,245,200. Masonry bids were awarded to Toenjes Brick Contracting, Inc. for $227,775.

Roofing and sheet metal bids were awarded to Kehrer Brothers West Roofing, Inc. for $375,900. Aluminum storefronts and curtainwalls were awarded to R and R Vision Glass, LLC, in the amount of $190,884.

Flooring bids were awarded to Flooring Systems, Inc. for $367,780. Drywall bids were awarded to George Weis Company for $548,752. Painting bids were awarded to Morrissey Contracting Company, Inc. for $98,000.

Fire suppression bids were awarded to Apex Fire Sprinkler Company for $128,850. Plumbing bids were awarded to Stoops Plumbing, Inc. for $392,800.

HVAC bids went to Kane Mechanical Group, LLC, for $974,229. Electrical bids went to Synergy Electric, Inc. for $959,959. Sitework and utilities bids went to Gelly Excavating and Construction for $504,096.

Budget Hearing

Prior to the regular meeting, the board hosted a public hearing for this year’s fiscal year 2022 budget. Revenues are estimated to be $28.6 million with expenditures estimated at $39.8 million.

Much of that shortfall is due to the elementary school building project, and the school issued bonds last year for about $12.5 million to cover the costs.

In addition, Superintendent Dr. Greggory Fuerstenau said the education fund would see a deficit of about $50,000 due to the addition of special education staff and additional substitutes. The transportation fund would see a deficit of close to $10,000 due to transportation of a student to Jacksonville to the School of the Deaf. He added the special education costs would be recouped in the following year’s budget, as special education funding is a year behind.

Dr. Fuerstenau also noted the board did not have to transfer any working cash to the education or any other fund at this time.

“We’re still in pretty good shape,” he told the board.

Board members passed the budget unanimously following the two-minute public hearing.

Other Business

In other business, the board approved support of the school district and the City of Litchfield for a Safe Routes to School grant application program. The goal of the program is to improve conditions for those who walk or bike to school, and approval requires a 20 percent match by those applying for the funds.

The board approved the annual review of the district’s risk management plan to make sure it adequately addresses tort issues. Dr. Fuerstenau said they were moving funds from the capital improvements project this year that would have to be abated next year.

The board also approved the transfer of $754,521.66 from the capital projects fund to the debt service fund. This covers two payments, one due in October and one due in April.

Under the consent agenda, the board approved students for early graduation that have met the proper requirements to graduate from high school this December.

They also approved the payment of September bills totalling $2.1 million, including $254,905 from the education fund, $51,930 from operations and maintenance, $1,375,934 from debt service, $27,641 from transportation, $425,319 from capital projects and $4,405 from tort immunity. Dr. Fuerstenau said the increase in debt service was payments for finishing the design phase of the new school building.

In his treasurer’s report, Dr. Fuerstenau noted that the district’s balance of all funds is $31 million, including $8 million in the education fund, $13.5 million in the capital projects fund and $7.7 million in the health life safety fund. He added the district has received 70 percent of its property taxes from Montgomery County, and also received a first payment of taxes from Macoupin County. Dr. Fuerstenau said the district has started work on the federal ESSER 3 grant.

Information Items

Under information items, Dr. Fuerstenau presented his enrollment report, noting the district is down 45 students in kindergarten through 12th grade over last year. He said they have seen an increase in the pre-K program with 23 additional students. Dr. Fuerstenau added that 11 students are homeschooling this year, and enrollment in parochial schools remains stable.

In buildings and grounds, Dr. Fuerstenau had high praise for district staff for making the grounds look so good for the Homecoming celebration. He said the district bought a new driver’s ed car, and the old car will remain with the district for the automotive classes to learn. In a final note, he said they continue work to install a new scoreboard at the high school baseball field.

Administrator Reports

At the high school, Principal Juletta Ellis reported success for the school’s Homecoming celebration, and that students enjoyed the outdoor dance. She said the school also hosted an all-town pep rally as part of this year’s Party in the Park celebration.

Principal Jeremy Heigert said things are going well at Colt and Russell schools. He had high praise for teachers and staff and said they would be hosting upcoming awards programs for students.

Principal Adam Favre said they are working to get kids into routines and they still have 12 kids on the wait list for pre-K.

Superintendent’s Report

Dr. Fuerstenau said that Ameren crews are on site of the new elementary school parking lot. They will be removing soil and bringing the ground up to grade. The school district will not bid out any of the projects because Ameren will be doing all the work. Dr. Fuerstenau said work is expected to start soon. He passed out an informational packet to board members, and Board President Julie Abel asked him to post it on the district website for families as well.

In an update to the proposed innovation center, Dr. Fuerstenau said the funding moved from the state to the DCEO, and the districct has started work on the paperwork. They will get $4.3 million up front. He expects that once approved, construction will take eight months and it could be up and going by Jan. 1, 2023.

In an update to the pandemic, Dr. Fuerstenau said they currently have nine students out that have tested positive for COVID and 22 out for close contact. To date this school year, they have done 408 rapid tests on students and 100 rapid tests on staff.

“That’s a lot of tests, but it’s paid off because we’ve kept kids in school,” Dr. Fuerstenau said.

He also noted Carlinville Middle School was taking a week-long pause due to an increase in positive cases. Dr. Fuerstenau said an absence of 20 percent of students in a building would be enough to take a pause, as it’s not fair to overload teachers with full days of school plus additional remote learning for so many students.

He thanked the nurses and all district staff for their hard work in trying times.

“If you see people who work for the district, thank them for their service,” he said. “They’re doing a great job.”

Curriculum Coordinator Jennifer Thompson said they continue to work through some growing pains in the new math curriculum, adding teachers will have a full-day in-service in October.

She also added the district is working on plans to apply for the State Seal of Bi-Literacy, mostly in the Spanish program. Students who complete four years of foreign language at the school can take a test to get the State Seal, which in some cases is good for college credit. Right now, there are seven students in the Spanish four program, and all may qualify for the seal. Thompson said their focus is Spanish right now, but students who already know another language could qualify for that as well and that foreign exchange students could test for the seal in English.

“We’re very excited to give this opportunity to our students,” she said.

Personnel

Following nearly an hour in closed session, the board approved family medical leave requests for several employees, including bus driver Roberta Williams (from Sept. 13 through Nov. 13), middle school teacher Sherry Pratt (effective Nov. 9 through Jan. 3), elementary school nurse Kendra Kirby (from Sept. 16 through Feb. 18) and career services coordinator Abby Carlson (from Dec. 7 through March 8). All were approved unanimously.

They approved the hiring of Shannon Holtgrave as a special education teacher at Madison Park Elementary School, which passed unanimously. The board would also approve hiring Cecelia Bloome as a special education classroom aide at the middle school, with board member Mark Bloome abstaining.

They hired Anthony Robinson as assistant coach for the high school boys basketball program, with Hires voting present. The board also unanimously hired Victoria Knoche as middle school cheer coach and Tara Younker as part-time clerical aide in student services at the high school.

The board approved adding the classifications of classroom aide, special education aide, instructional tutor and instructional tutor with professional educator’s license to the Teamster contract. Board members Fleming, Bloome and Ron Anglin abstained.

They approved holiday pay for secretaries and cooks starting with this school year. In a final motion, they accepted the resignation of Misty Toole as a special education classroom aide at Russell.

The meeting adjourned at 7:56 p.m. Board members will meet again on Tuesday evening, Oct. 19, at 6 p.m. in the Radius Room at Litchfield High School.

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