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District 54 applying for grant funding

If awarded, would go toward Shabbona carpeting, parking lot, walls

MORRIS – Shabbona Middle School could get a makeover this summer – provided the state issues $300,000 in grant funding needed to make the improvements.

The Illinois State Board of Education offers a maintenance grant of $50,000 and an energy efficiency grant of $250,000 to eligible schools. Morris Elementary School District 54 is applying for both grants.

If awarded, District 54 would have to match all grant funds provided by the state.

With the maintenance grant, District 54 Superintendent Teri Shaw said the district will replace Shabbona’s carpeting with tile flooring and put a new seal coating on Shabbona’s parking lot. Together the projects would cost about $100,000, with the district’s share $50,000, Shaw said.

In the 2012-13 school year, District 54 resurfaced White Oak Elementary School’s parking lot with funds secured from a separate maintenance grant.

The energy efficiency grant would go toward replacing the north and west walls of Shabbona school.

“Replacing them will reduce our energy output because the walls are very thin right now,” Shaw said.

District officials would like the walls to be 12 to 14 inches thick; estimates now place them at 2 to 3 inches thick. The added thickness, plus energy- efficient windows, should help control classroom temperatures.

“Board members have tested the temperature in the rooms and it is really cold by those walls,” School Board Vice President Carol Narvick said. “Kids and teachers have been wearing long underwear to stay warm.”

The wall replacement project is estimated to cost between $600,000 and $800,000. With a government grant of $250,000, the district’s share could be between $350,000 to $550,000.

District 54 applied for an Energy Efficiency Grant two years ago, but did not meet the grant’s low-income criteria of having at least 40 percent of the district’s students qualifying for free and reduced-price lunch programs. This year, 48 percent of District 54 students qualify.

To help pay for the projects, District 54 has saved money from its capital projects and life-safety funds.

“At the end of our audit in 2013, we had a little over a half a million dollars saved in the Life-Safety fund,” Shaw said. “In the Capital Projects fund, at the end of 2013, we had about $750,000.”

Shabbona Middle School was designed to be a 25-year building when it opened 43 years ago. The district also expects Shabbona’s roof will need to be replaced within three to five years.

The proposed improvements could add another 20 years to the building, Shaw said.

“We’ve had a building plan for quite some time,” Narvick said. “The problem is finding the money to do everything that needs to be done.”

The improvement plan was developed in large part by Pat Callahan, senior principal architect at Studio GC in Chicago. Callahan assessed Shabbona’s building and presented a plan outlining what needed to be repaired first, Narvick said.

Shaw is unsure the district will proceed with the Shabbona improvements if it does not receive the grant funding.

Provided the grants are issued, construction would take place during the summer of 2014.

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