Lebanon to build new grade school, replacing 80-year-old structure

News-DemocratAugust 30, 2013 

Lebanon Community Unit School District 9 is moving forward with plans to construct a new grade school, which will replace the current 80-year-old school.

"It's the best thing for the kids, for our community and for our district," Superintendent Patrick Keeney said.

The district is currently working with Ittner Architects and Holland Construction Services on plans for a new grade school to house pre-kindergarten through fifth grade students.

The current grade school at 201 W. Schuetz St. has foundation issues and heating and air conditioning problems.

Lebanon Grade School Principal Jeff Teasley said the school has no central air conditioning and must rely on individual units in each classroom to keep students cool on hot days. Areas outside of the classrooms including the hallways, cafeteria and gymnasium have no air conditioning.

"I'm really hopeful we are able to follow through and get this thing done," Teasley said. "It's definitely something we need to do."

Keeney said the project is expected to go out for bid in December with construction slated to start soon after, depending on weather conditions. He described the 12-month construction timeline as "aggressive.

"We hope to get that shovel in the ground as soon as possible," he said.

Voters approved a $7.5 million bond issue for a new elementary school building in Lebanon in 2010. Keeney said the district delayed the project in hopes it would receive capital construction grant money from the state.

However, the state is 10 years behind schedule on awarding approved school construction grant money to school districts, according to Keeney. For example, Waterloo School District 5 applied for a state school construction grant in fiscal year 2003 for a new high school and was just awarded the $20 million on Aug. 13. Waterloo's new high school opened in August 2009. Lebanon District 9 applied for construction grant money from the state in fiscal year 2005, so it could be another two years before the district receives it.

Illinois State Board of Education spokesman Tim Murphy confirmed Lebanon School District did apply for a construction grant in 2005. "They have gone through all of the approvals and are waiting on the general assembly and governor to approve the funding," Murphy said. "It (the state) is behind in terms of funding going out."

District officials in Lebanon have decided to move forward with the project without the state's dollar-to-dollar match grant.

"We're having to look at doing this project for the referendum amount," Keeney said.

Holland conducted a feasibility study, and the $7.5 million budget for the new grade school is "within striking distance," according to Keeney.

Current plans call for construction of a 40,000-square-foot, 25-classroom building with the capacity for 400 students. Keeney said Lebanon Grade School currently has 330 students.

The building will incorporate brick, "lots of glass and lots of colors," according to Keeney. "It's going to be something very modern," he said.

Keeney is hopeful when the district goes out for bids in December that one will come in around the district's projected budget of $7.5 million. To pay for construction costs, Keeney said the district will need to issue bonds in early 2014.

The new grade school will be on district-owned property southwest of the current high school at 200 W. Schuetz St. "If we had more (money) available, we could look off site," Keeney said.

He estimated students could be attending the new school by fall 2015.

The current grade school will be torn down once a new school is constructed, according to Keeney. The district closed Summerfield Grade School in 2011 because of budgetary reasons, and the students were relocated to Lebanon Grade School.

If money does become available through the state's capital construction grant, Keeney said the new grade school could be expanded.

Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at 239-2562 or jforsythe1@bnd.com.

Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at 239-2562 or jforsythe1@bnd.com.

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