Palestine now has the money to pay for a consolidation feasibility study.
Superintendent Joe Sornberger reported that funds from a private donation are now available for two feasibility studies: one for consolidation of Palestine and Robinson districts, and the other for consolidation of Palestine and Hutsonville. The normal cost of doing a study is $5,000 per school per study. As the information about Palestine can be used in both studies, the cost is reduced to a total of $15,000.
Two companies have expressed interest in performing the study. Sornberger said he, and the other two district superintendents, are recommending Midwest Consultants, a University of Illinois-Springfield professor-led company. As this is a binding contract, board policy states a vote must be taken before the contract can be awarded. The board is expected to vote at the March 27 special meeting.
The board continued its discussion on further budget cuts to address the $200,000 deficit. Sornberger presented the board with his recommendations, but said he is open to other ideas, and asked the board "Is there something I have gone too far on?"
Sornberger said his recommendations included eliminating the administrator position at the high school; cutting one elementary teaching position, resulting in one teacher per grade level; and eliminating a half-time high school cafeteria worker by pulling a person from the grade school to fill that position.
He also recommended cutting custodial positions from three to two and half, and looking at only running two bus routes in the afternoon. Based on the money available for the band/music position, it would only be half-time. He also recommended cutting the nurse position to half-time. All aides will be let go at the end of the school year, and hired back as student enrollment dictates in the fall.
The good news is that Sornberger said he would like to post four high-school positions: art, business, math and social studies, in hopes he will get applicants who can teach additional subjects like family and consumer science and library science. There is also a possibility that a special-education reassignment may gain the district an additional $26,000.
All told, the recommended cuts would only save around $108,000. "The target is $200,000," he said.
In answer to Sornberger's question, board member Susan Hawkins said the board has "cut to the bone" on elementary teaching positions. She went on to say, "What is the point of having a school if we can't educate the kids?" Board president Corie Biggs reminded the board it can hire back teachers as class size dictates.
Reduction in force notices must go out this month, and the board will vote at the March 27 meeting.
Word is in from the architect that the grade-school building will not house all Unit 3 students without some modification.
Sornberger said architects from ADG Design reviewed the blueprints of the grade-school building in an effort to address some of the unknowns and concerns voiced about the scenario of moving the high school to grade school.
The report stated the two wings would not hold all of the students without classroom modification. The existing science room does not meet high-school chemistry requirements. Restrooms and hallways are adequate, but would be crowded. Traffic flow would need to be addressed. The overall opinion was additional classroom space was needed and some other modifications, but the grade school does have the potential to hold all students.
As stated before, closing the high school building is something only to be considered after the feasibility study is complete.
In other business, the board was invited to the junior-senior prom, and accepted the donation of a concrete bench from the class of 1982 in memory of class member Mary Wagoner Shonk. The board authorized the superintendent to go out for fuel bids, and approved and interfund loan from working cash to the transportation fund. The board also had to amend the school calendar again to reflect more lost days because of weather. Tiffany Musselwhite was hired as a home-bound tutor.
The next scheduled meeting will be April 21, but special meeting has been scheduled for March 27 at 6 p.m.