The Daily Register - Harrisburg, IL
  • Board narrows focus on high school options

  • Having judged the Harrisburg High School building will not be safe enough for students by 2016, the school board discussed some other options during Thursday's board meeting.
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  • Having judged the Harrisburg High School building will not be safe enough for students by 2016, the school board discussed some other options during Thursday's board meeting.
    The board ended the discussion intending to investigate two possibilities: Operating classes out of portable buildings and tearing down and rebuilding the C Building.
    Superintendent Dennis Smith said he does not believe the option of deactivating HHS and sending students to other districts is practical. The deactivation of a school is subject to voter approval and Smith does not believe voters would approve it.
    "I can't imagine that being very successful," Smith said.
    The district may also have to pay tuition and transportation. There would be complications with receiving schools taking control of the HHS staff.
    Harrisburg Middle School Principal John Crabb and HHS Principal Karen Crank looked into using HMS for both Middle School and High School students and came to the conclusion this idea was also impractical. The Middle School was constructed for three grades of pupils between the ages of 11 and 14 and crowding is already a problem in hallways.
    Under this proposal High School and Middle School kids would not be utilizing the building at the same time.
    Smith said the idea of using portable buildings is feasible. The buildings could be located at the current High or Middle School and if at the Middle School then part of that building might be utilized. Advantages are less cost, Smith said. The buildings would be constructed off the site where prevailing wage regulations do not apply and the buildings could be bought through a lease purchase. Board members agreed the next step may be to visit a school where this method is in practice.
    Smith, board President Scott Berry and Crank visited Southeastern Illinois College administrators to see if that building might accommodate the students. Crank said there is not enough space. Most of the classrooms are utilized during the day. Another issue could arise requiring criminal background checks on all college students and staff to meet state statutes for the Harrisburg district. The influx of 625 additional people could also strain the sewer system.
    The SIC Foundation Building also sounded impossible as students would be mingling in areas where there are private offices.
    Another option is online classes. John Crabb said there are several online diploma programs. He found one wherein a student could pay $149, take a test and get a diploma in less than two hours. Others require a certain span of time to complete.
    Smith said the state currently has a one-year moratorium on online diploma programs, but the state could opt to lift that. If that happens it is possible any student could state he or she intended to complete high school online and the district would be responsible for paying tuition and providing computers to use.
    Page 2 of 3 - Berry asked the board members for their opinions on the options and Tom DeNeal said he would prefer the district pursue an earlier possibility considered of tearing down C Building — which is the portion of the structure in the worst shape — and constructing a new C Building.
    "Ten to $15 million is better than a $30 millions structure and it would last the rest of our lives," DeNeal said.
    Molly Wilson-Dearing said that option may be in opposition to the wishes of the voters who already voted down the referendum to build a new school in the spring.
    DeNeal said he believed the new structure could be built in a way that it blends with the existing structure.
    "It could be something that blends in with what we have. I don't want Soldier Field. I don't want a spaceship on the front lawn," DeNeal said.
    The board approved a budget for the 2013-2014 school year predicting a total deficit of $1,250,791. The education fund expenditures are predicted be $624,292 greater than revenue with the education fund ending with $427,880, the building fund $41,659 greater than revenue, liability fund $200,000 greater than revenue and life safety $1,428,000 greater than revenue.
    The year began with $8,371,041, there is predicted to be $19,487,890 in revenue, $20,738,681 in expenses and Smith predicts the year will end June 30, 2014, with $7,120,250.
    DeNeal asked about the deficit in the education fund last year and Smith said it was about the same as this year at about $600,000.
    Smith said the only unknown in the budget is the equalized assessed valuation that comes from the tax assessor's office.
    Smith conducted a budget study session at 4:30 p.m. prior to the meeting that board members Michelle Way, Jeffrey Drake, Brian Hester and Tom DeNeal attended as well as citizen Elizabeth Woodworth and The Daily Register.
    During the meeting Smith explained there were many reasons for the deficit, but mainly spoke of the state prorating state aid payments by 89 percent. The state aid and local tax levy is supposed to provide $6,119 to educate each student. This year with the state's proration the board was able to spend only $5,400 per student.
    "That's $1 million less than what we're entitled to," Smith said during the budget study session.
    Architect Ed Kerkhover said window replacement at East Side, West Side and Davenport Gym is moving forward. Windows may not arrive until the end of October or early November.
    "There are ridiculously long lee times on windows," Kerkhover said.
    "There has been a struggle with our windows man to get something from them."
    Kerkhover said in hindsight it would have been better to break the East and West Side window replacement from the Davenport project and embarked on two smaller projects.
    Page 3 of 3 - During the meeting, the board:
    Approved Valarie Hodge as Freedom of Information Act officer.
    Created a 100-day, $8,000 a year, $10.93 an hour guidance counselor clerk.
    Approved a West Side Media Aide position of $15,000 a year with responsibilities of shelving, working with teachers and taking 25 classes into the library for teachers' one-hour preparation time. Hester, Dearing and DeNeal voted no, but the other four members voted yes to carry the motion.
    Discussed replacing the East Side secretary position. Secretary Glenda Lipe resigned and the board had talked about not replacing her, but Principal Scott Dewar said that would not be possible. Berry said the board may hire someone for that position during the next meeting.
    Discussed cutting one custodial staff position, but agreed the schools look better than they have in years and no one made a motion to cut the staff.
    Approved the resignations of EOC Aides Joan Epplin, Cherie Webb and Holley Markham and Copy Aide Buffy Lane.
    Approved the employment of Lexi Barton as nurse, Trinity Balfour, Kalee Burklow and Sharon Horton as EOC aides, Jerica Howton as temporary EOC aide and Caitlyn Dismang as football cheerleading coach.
    Approved assistant golf coaches, Kenny Jenkins and Bimp Simpson.
    Approved assistant middle school golf coaches, Jacob Morse and Brett Sullivan.
    Approved assistant middle school baseball coach T.A. Sullivan.
    Approved assistant middle school cross country coaches Mike Hearn and Robin Newcomb.
    Approved assistant middle school cheerleading coach Jaime Questelle.
    Approved maternity leave for Marj DeNeal and Jessica Morber.
    Approved a leave of absence for Jami Gullic.
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