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District 17 meets to decide how to use $5.5 million

Money set aside to use at grade schools is being recommended for repairs, upgrades

CHANNAHON – Grade school District 17 plans to set aside about $5.5 million to use on various capital projects on three of its four schools – Pioneer Path, N.B. Galloway and Three Rivers. Board members and administrators met Thursday evening in a special meeting to discuss whether to earmark funds for the projects, and if so, how much.

About 37 jobs for a total of $11.7 million were on the short list of projects administrators and the district’s architect identified as needing work. The proposal to set aside a specific new fund to accomplish the goals was mentioned at the last school board meeting, but some members wanted a more in-depth discussion.

The biggest question members had for the administrators was why there was a need to set aside the funds. They also wanted details of some of the proposed projects.

“The idea is to reserve funds, not to approve any expenditures,” Superintendent Karin Evans said, “To determine an amount and then take our time to determine what we should prioritize and start with first.”

The special capital fund could be increased or decreased if the board so chose, Evans said.

The list included such projects as adding more outlets, replacing galvanized water piping, upgrading fire alarm systems and tuck-pointing cracks in the gym at Galloway; replacing bleachers, upgrading the security system and removing carpet at Three Rivers; and replacing handrails, replacing gymnasium air handling units and replacing lighting panels and feeder conductors at Pioneer Path.

Evans said she thought one of the two biggest priorities should be building on to N.B. Galloway School to create auxiliary space. Currently, the school’s physical education classes are doubled up, she said, then P.E. stops when students use the room for lunch.

The other priority she said may be converting the two large former shop and home economics rooms at Three Rivers to classrooms. The gym project could cost about $2.8 million, and converting the space at Three Rivers around $1 million. The costs are just ballpark figures, though, the board was told.

If the board eventually decides to do any of the projects, members would have to approve them at a separate meeting.

Board members Pat Clower and Derek Breen asked administrators to be sure to allow school custodians to do the projects on the list that they would be able to do. Clower said she thought several of the items on the list could be deleted, such as an addition to the bus barn at Galloway, a project estimated to cost $1 million.

“I don’t know if we should spend a million dollars on that with declining enrollment,” she said.

Evans said perhaps they could place such items as the lowest priority on the list. The district’s enrollment has been dropping for the past few years, she said, but it might go up again. It’s best to plan for that now, she explained, and not leave it for a future board and administration.

In the end, the board agreed to place $5.5 million in a fund with the goal to use the money for the capital improvements.

No items of improvement were listed for the district’s fourth school, Channahon Junior High, as it is a newer building and not in need of building work. Administrators also will lead board members on tours of the schools to point out the items on the repair list.

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