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Fieldcrest Board Approves Building Plan

Wednesday, July 25, 2018 - Posted 8:46:22 PM
The Fieldcrest Board of Education approved the building plan of the Fieldcrest Building Committee by a 4 to 3 vote.  The plan includes a new middle school in Wenona, a new high school in Minonk, and demolition of the existing buildings.  The plan also includes the demolition of the former Presbyterian church and keeping the gymnasium and boiler room at the current middle school in Wenona.  Those voting in favor of the plan were Charles Lohr, Elizabeth Palm, Mykin Bernardi and Kimberly McKay.  Those voting against the plan were Joe Kirkpatrick, Tim McNamara and Scott Hillenburg.

Tim McNamara said he can't support adding 2 new buildings and prefers building one 7-12 building and moving grade 6 to Toluca.  He said with declining enrollment, the school district will not need as many buildings.

Scott Hillenburg brought statistics listing the EAV of each community showing that Minonk's EAV (Estimated average value of property) is $28,818,099, Toluca's EAV is $18,248.478 and Wenona's EAV is $12,932,822. He supports building a new building in Minonk and demolishing the middle school buildings in Wenona.  He acknowledges that this will lower the property values in Wenona which will reduce the revenue to the school district that will have to be made up by higher taxes for the other communities as well as Wenona.  But he added the increase in taxes would be less than if the school built two new buildings for $29 million as proposed in the building plan.

Mr. Hillenburg went on to say that he is not in favor of constructing a new building if it isn't better than the existing buildings.  He said the proposed building plan does not have the space and some of the amenities of the current building due to budget constraints.  He said if the referendum does not pass, he will recommend that the high school be repaired and upgraded to modern standards so it can potentially become a 7-12 school if enrollment continues to decline.

Board president Kirkpatrick said the board has to make a long term decision and doesn't believe the district can continue to support 4 school buildings.

Board member Charles Lohr said if only one building is to be built, it should be in Toluca as that is the population center for the Fieldcrest school district.  Mr. Hillenburg disagreed saying that Minonk has more students than the Toluca and Wenona combined.

Elizabeth Palm said she feels that most people want to keep a school in each community and feels that repairing existing buildings is an exercise in futility.  She said the voters should decide on which route to go in the building issue.  

In other business the board approved a bid from Prairie Farm Dairy for milk for the school and bread to be provided by Aunt Millie's.  Also, a 1.5% increase in pay was approved for non union and non certified employees.

Fieldcrest Primary Principal Jason Chaplin said the school is re-instituting the weekend snack packs in which eligible students will be given snack packs on Friday to take home for the weekend.  The program is designed for K-5 students.  The snacks are provided by the Midwest Food Bank and the Eastern Illinois Food Bank.  The project is supported by the local churches and donors in the area.  The snacks are to be delivered and stored at St. Patrick's church.

Fieldcrest Superintendent Dr. Dan Oakley reported that the school's auditor said the school is in good financial condition.  

Mr. Lohr asked Dr. Oakley why the school doesn't give the buildings scheduled for demolition to the city.  Dr. Oakley said the city has said it doesn't want any empty buildings and would rather have them demolished.  Dr. Oakley said the city also indicated it would be too expensive for the city to upgrade the buildings such as the gymnasium and the bus garage.

The board agreed to have a special meeting on August 14th.