Belleville District 118 talks buildings, and buys new books

The state budget, and lack thereof, is foremost on the minds of Superintendent Matt Klosterman and other administrators at Belleville District 118.

Last month the board heard plans from Ittner Archeticts about potential construction in the district to increase the number of classrooms. The total project could be as much as $20 million, a figure that Klosterman said Tuesday night could need adjustment.

“We do have some thing we do need to have done,” he said. But the district is looking at options, “recognizing a lot of unanswered questions right now.”

Klosterman suggested a possibility of alternative bids to make fewer classrooms, stressing that Abraham Lincoln and West Junior High have significant needs for more classroom space and improved parking.

Linda Matkowski, the district’s financial consultant, said the first step is to get construction drawings and some ground borings done.

“I can’t tell you how many times they go to dig, and find old oil storage that no one knew about buried on the property,” she said.

No action was asked for or taken on the construction possibility; Matkowski said doing the construction drawings will keep the process moving, and still allow stopping points for the board if the state funding becomes more questionable.

“We can alternative bid any way we want,” Klosterman said.

The superintendent earlier told the board that administrators are closely watching action in Springfield, including the senate bill passed to re-structure the education funding formula.

“It’s an ongoing concern weather the state will pass a budget,” he said. “School could open in the fall without an education budget. It would be challenging for all schools, but those of us who rely on state aid ... we could probably manage through December.”

In other business

▪  The curriculum commitee has purchased new materials for English Language Arts, the first such purchase in about a decade. Tracy Gray, assistant superinentdent of curriculum, siad that between title funds and IDEA funds, “we’re in a good place” for the purchase.

“Everything is digital” in the Macgraw-Hill series, she said, which means that if there are not enough texts for a certain reading level, students can instead turn to their Chromebooks.

▪  West Junior High School will host an informational program about the one-cent sales tax from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on May 25. Klosterman said early projections show that the district could gain about $2 million annually if St. Clair County were to agree to the tax for school districts.

▪  Two district mothers spoke during public comment about the treatment of their children by teachers and administrators at Abraham Lincoln Elementary and West Junior High Schools.

Miriam Patton and Joni McNamee, both of Belleville, told the board of repeated attempts at their children’s schools to address respect and discipline. Patton told the board that her second grade son and his classmates have been pinched by their teacher, as well as having his papers tossed off of his desk. She told the board that her seventh grade daughter was repeatedly put into in-school suspension for actions or perceived actions that were not the girl’s fault, or that were overblown. McNamee told the board her eighth grade son’s arm was pulled by the principal and a hospital visit was warranted.

The two women spoke for more than 45 minutes, pausing for comment from Board President Joe Robertson, who thanked them for their comments but said the board would have to look into it. Board member Keith Johnson sympathized but urged them to remember that some children – not necessarily theirs – stretch the truth.

Patton and McNamee did not specify action they wanted taken, but were visibly unhappy with the board’s reaction.

The two mothers have been picketing the schools, and will continue to do so, they said.