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  • Fairbury News staff

Crowd votes on school plan

(Monday night's final community engagement session at PCHS)

During the final Planning A Course Together, or “PACT,” meeting at Prairie Central High School Monday, those attending chose from numerous options on which way the district should move forward with buildings.

Attendees made a choice between grade center elementary schools(A) or a centralized elementary school (B).

According to results provided by the district, the centralized elementary concept won over grade centers 280-196. That represents the 476 voters who came to the meeting. The vote was strictly advisory as the school board has the final say.

With the centralized elementary school plan, a new PK-5 building was favored over a PK-5 addition or renovation by a vote of 201-79. Of those voting for the grade centers concept, 177 supported PK-3 elementary centers compared to 19 who favored PK-1 elementary centers and a new 2-5 building.

Under the grade center plans, there is A-3 which includes PK-3 in Chenoa and Chatsworth and retiring Prairie Central Elementary. PC Upper Elementary would have grades 4-5 while the Junior High would house grades 6-8. The cost is $63.3 million.

A-4 includes PK-1 in Chenoa and Chatsworth and grades 6-8 at the Junior High with a new 2-5 building. PC Upper Elementary and PC Elementary would be retired. The cost is $87.2 million.

For the centralized elementary plans, there is B-4 which would have PK-5 at PC Elementary and 6-8 at the Junior High. Chatsworth, Chenoa and the Upper Elementary would be retired. The cost is $69.6 million.

Under plan B-4n, there is a new PK-5 facility with grades 6-8 at the junior high. This calls for the retirement of Chenoa, Chatsworth, PC Elementary and the Upper Elementary. The cost is $90.8 million.

Representatives of BLDD Architects reviewed previous PACT meetings, noting top ranked considerations included providing educational space that supports teaching and curriculum.

BLDD’s Greg Butler showed examples of new spaces which would be good for small and large group work and co-teaching. He showed photos of other schools.

Damien Schlitt of BLDD pointed to the need to consider what has changed educationally in this day and age. He encouraged the crowd to think about what students and teachers will be doing in the year 2037.

“The type of work we do today and implement will affect those students,” he said. “We sometimes don’t get the opportunity to see what these facilities can be.”

Schlitt outlined what would happen if certain buildings remained operational in the district. Chenoa’s school would have renovation work, ADA entries and reconfiguration of the existing footprint. A roof upgrade would be needed along with electrical upgrades and HVAC work.

Chatsworth work would include the reconfiguration of classrooms, upgraded electrical, plumbing and HVAC. The Upper Elementary building in Forrest would also have some reconfigurations.

One option just has functional improvements to the Chenoa and Chatsworth buildings.

Work would be needed at the Junior High if sixth grade is added plus baseball and softball fields could be placed there.

The district does have sales tax money available for projects along with a $12 million fund balance allocation which can be allocated for each building scenario.

Buildings were graded on how they are performing for the district. The architects reported a new PK-5 building would have the best functionality.

Those attending were allowed to vote on their option preference at the conclusion of Monday’s meeting in Fairbury.

“We take the results to the Board of Education and provide them the scenarios, then it’s up to the board,” PACT committee member JD Skaggs said.

PC board members will get information at their June meeting and are likely to have a decision by early August. Superintendent Paula Crane says this could include some special meetings in addition to the regular June and July board meetings.





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