Education

Belleville school board agrees to $20M debt certificate

In a passage that district attorney called “beautiful legalese”, the District 118 school board approved the ability to raise $20 million should it decide to go through with suggested construction and renovation changes to its schools.

The board unanimously agreed to the debt certificate.

“It doesn’t lock us into anything,” Assistant Superintendent Ryan Boike said of the debt certificate.

The board approved a $6 million bond earlier this year; the district can now add about $14 million to that if it decides to follow the recommendations of Ittner Architects. In March, the architects advocated adding 21 classrooms to existing buildings, concentrating on Union, Abraham Lincoln and Roosevelt documentaries. Those additions would help alleviate current and future busing needs, as well as add dedicated gyms, music rooms and reading specialist areas. The recommendations also included new security features in most of the district’s schools, which would mean changes to the main entrances. The total estimated cost, including repairs to each of the district’s buildings, is more than $26 million. The district’s financial advisor recommends taking on no more than $20 million in new debt.

Board member Aaron Snively of the finance committee read the official description of the resolution to the board, which included “authorizing and providing for an Installment Purchase Agreement for the purpose of paying the cost of purchasing real or personal property, or both ... providing for the security for and means of payment under said Agreement of said Certificates, and authorizing the sale of said Certificates to the purchaser thereof.”

“That’s just such beautiful legalese I’m beginning to well up!” said the typically taciturn William Stiehl, the attorney for the school district.

Boike reiterated that the certificate would “keep us on the timeline (Ittner suggested) if that’s what we want to do.”

“We’re somewhat new to a debt certificate of this magnitude,” Boike said.

Grades are not retroactive

Starting with the 2016-2017 school year, the letter grades on some report cards could look a bit different. The baord voted on and agreed to what Judi Keplar, board vice-president, called “a 10-point scale.” A 90 percent or higher is an A, with a D being 60 to 69 percent.

Tracy Gray, the assistant superintendent for curriculum, told the board that the education trend is to move toward the 10-point scale, which military and other families moving into the district are familiar with.

“Not that it’s a major deal for second-grade students, but feedback over the years has been, ‘How come we aren’t like the high schools?’” said Matt Klosterman, superintendent, earlier on Tuesday.

More money matters

▪ The district approved changing data and phone services to Clearwave instead of Charter and other companies in another unanimous vote.

Boike told the board that not only would there be significant savings with Clearwave, but there is also the expectation of improved internet service. He said the district currently has a 20 megabite download speed; Clearwave with its 100 percent fiberoptic network promises 500 megapites. The district would also have it’s own WAN, or wide area network.

Boike said the district will pay $1536 dollars a month with Clearwave; between government grants and a deal to provide signage for Clearwave, the district is saving nearly $3400 a month.

▪ The board approved roof work at West Junior High, which is “beyond any ability to patch,” Klosterman said earlier. It’s close to a $300,000 project, and the money will come from the health/life/safety fund, which is restricted money.

▪  The agenda ]also shows that the 92nd Parent Teacher Assocation’s Sports Field Day for grades 4-6 will be May 10 at Westhaven School.

Student matters

▪  In a first, a handful of students whose essays impressed Art on the Square folks will be choosing up to $1500 worth of art for their schools. Four schools – Henry Raab, Westhaven, Union and Jefferson elementaries – will each get to choose art.

“I’m hoping for a sculpture to put outside our multipurpose room,” said Jamey McCluskey, principal of Jefferson. He was there with teachers and students to tell the board about the school’s Peace Challenge.

▪  The award-winning District 118 jazz band will perform at 7 p.m. May 9 at Central Junior High; the fourth and fifth grade bands will perform at Central at 7 p.m. April 26.

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