The Litchfield School Board looked into the possibility of building a brand new elementary school on the current middle school and high school campus, as part of the regular monthly meeting on Thursday evening, April 16, in the conference room at Litchfield High School.
Board member Jeff Helgen was absent from the meeting.
Gene Mackey of Ameresco and Dave Steckel of Steckel Parker Architects, along with a couple of other representatives addressed the board during the Citizens Agenda.
Superintendent John Mullett said this project was something the board had talked about the past few months. He said there would be a presentation at next month's meeting about how to pay for it.
"I honor you for your courage and foresight," Mullett told the board. "Our buildings are getting older."
Mackey echoed those sentiments and the board's forword planning.
"I wish more school districts had a broader vision," Mackey said.
They presented two preliminary projects to the board, one which would build onto the current middle school and the other built just behind it.
For the project attached to the middle school, the district would have to acquire the property next door. The preliminary drawing was a three-story building with 25 classrooms and either a gym on the main floor or housed in another building attached to it.
Mullett said in all new school construction projects, gyms are required to be able to function as storm shelters. He said if this project was built that the gym could hold up to 2,000 people, meaning all the district's students and staff could be in one central location in case of an emergency.
The other option behind the middle school was a smaller version with 22 classrooms. Steckel said there wasn't quite as much room back there as they originally thought.
Board member Jeff Seabaugh said he liked the larger size, and felt if they were going to build this new school, it should include room for 20 to 30 percent growth in hopes they will need it someday.
"We want to be big enough that if schools look to consolidation, they can come to us," Seabaugh said. "We don't want to be too small."
Mullett said the middle school and high school campus is very attractive, and the drawings showed the new projects would have a similar look.
"Sihler is my personal favorite building because it reminds me of my school days," Mullett said. "But sometimes buildings outlive their usefulness, and you have to decide when to stop putting money into old buildings. We have a long way to go, but I think we might be moving in the right direction."
He added there is a possibility of using health life safety funds for the project.
District administrators said they currently use all of their building space in each of the buildings. The elementary school buildings include pre-K at Sihler School, kindergarten and first grade at Madison Park School, second and third grade at JD Colt School and fourth and fifth grade at Russell School. Mullett added that enrollment numbers are starting to come back up as well.
Since plans are just preliminary, they aren't sure how many of the schools could consolidate into the new building. Mullett said he would like to see at least the three youngest schools, since Russell is not that far from the high school.
Mark Hunt, director of student services, said whether the board decides to go forward two years or 20, it's a project that needs to be looked at. He added that the district owns two and a half lots by Scherer and Madison that could also eventually be made into parking for the new building.
"You've got to start somewhere," Seabaugh said. "In the next five years, I think you will see some other schools start to move in."
In addition to the building presentation, the board recognized several students and board members.
Mullett presented plaques to outgoing board members President Stephanie Blankenship, Vice President Rob Nickerson and Secretary Theresa Durbin. Also present at the meeting were newly elected board members Gregg Hires, Meg Wertin and Dennis Scobbie. Current member Jeff Seabaugh was also re-elected. The board will host a re-organizational meeting on Thursday evening, April 30, beginning at 7 p.m. in the conference room at Litchfield High School.
LHS Student Council President Hannah Nail reported on several student organizations, and said many are electing new officers for the coming year.
Upcoming at the high school, the FCCLA is doing a fundraiser for Autism awareness in April and both the FCCLA and Interact Clubs will be doing fundraisers for the family of the late Faith Hartzell in May.
Members of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) will host baccalauerate on May 21 in Simmons Gym, and Student Council will make breakfast for the teachers on May 8.
The SADD chapter hosted an assembly on distracted driving on April 17, and the Drama Club will present the annual musical, "Cinderella," April 23-25.
Other upcoming dates are Prom on May 2, senior awards night on May 6 and the senior sports banquet on May 13.
Students from all grade levels chosen to represent the district at this year's Illinois Principal's Association - Kaskaskia Region breakfast were also introduced by their respective principals. Those recognized included Sara Painter from Litchfield High School, Amberleigh Mix from Litchfield Middle School, Riley Collins from JD Colt Elementary School, Blaine Stewart from Russell Elementary School and Conner Favre from Madison Park Elementary School.
Madison Park Principal Adam Favre made one more note, and said Mullett would be honored by the IPA later in April as Outstanding Superintendent of the Year.
High school wrestling coach Brian Lee also honored several middle school and high school state qualifiers. Both Carter Powell and Cam Lee were state qualifiers at the middle school. At the high school, Collin Davidson earned second at state and Cole Werner earned fourth place. All of the wrestlers but Werner were training for a state tournament in Champaign and unable to attend.
Lee praised Werner for his hard work and years of dedication to the Litchfield wrestling program.
"I've never had a harder worker in the 13 years I've been here," Lee said. "He really represented LHS wrestling to the fullest."
Under the consent agenda, the board approved three students for early graduation in December 2015, including Madison Pimentel, Courtney Terrell and Shyanne Willard. All three will begin taking classes at Lincoln Land Community College this summer to fulfill their graduation requirements and have plans to enroll in college for the spring 2015 semester.
The board unanimously approved an amended school calendar with the last full day of student attendance on May 26. Mullett noted graduation would be May 22, at 7 p.m.
Board members unanimously approved meeting dates for the coming year on the third Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. in the conference room at LHS. There were two exceptions, and the board will meet on Tuesday, Sept. 22 and Tuesday, Nov. 17.
The board unanimously approved a two-year co-op agreement with the Panhandle School District for the sports of girls basketball and football. The agreement was already approved by the South Central Conference.
Just prior to the start of the meeting, the board approved this year's list of Fogleman scholarship recipients. This year's list includes 91 or 92 students, who will receive a $2,500 scholarship.
Seabaugh asked how many new recipients would be awarded this year, and Mullett said 23. The scholarship is renewable for four years.
"This is something Litchfield and its students should be very proud of," Mullett said. "It's not something that happens everywhere."
In his report, Mullett said the district finances are in good shape for the end of the school year. He said the state is projecting to cut the last payment of general state aid to all school districts, which would be $175,000.
He added the state is currently looking at a 2.25 percent reduction in general state aid for the following school year, but that the budget may not be finalized until July or August.
After about 40 minutes in closed session, the board approved the resignation of Jose Zuniga as high school boys soccer coach.
They also approved Larry Toller as a substitute teacher.