Dist. 96, Dist. 220 Hope to Get Piece of Construction-Fund Pie

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Byline: Kate Clements and James Evans Daily Herald Staff Writers

SPRINGFIELD - Six suburban school districts on Friday were declared eligible for the state's new school construction program.

While the districts - from St. Charles, Geneva, DuPage County, Buffalo Grove-Long Grove, Dundee and Barrington - are now officially entitled to participate in the program, they are far from guaranteed state funds.

"That means our foot is in the door and they haven't ruled us out yet," said Harvey Jenkins, assistant superintendent of business services for St. Charles Unit District 303.

The program, a part of the education funding reform package passed in December, will award $1.4 billion over five years.

About $30 million will be handed out this year, which is well below the amount requested by the 26 school districts currently eligible.

Under the construction grant program, school districts are eligible to receive up to 35 percent of the total construction amount approved by voters.

The State Board of Education and the Capital Development Board will rank the projects, giving priority to districts who need construction because of man-made or natural disasters, overcrowding due to population growth and/or building age, school district reorganization, severe health and safety hazards, access for people with disabilities and other facility needs.

In St. Charles, school officials are seeking $67 million in building funds. The district could receive as much as $23.5 million at a 35 percent reimbursement level from the grant program.

Geneva Unit District 304 is asking for $35.6 million for new classrooms and could receive as much as $3.6 million from the grant program.

"We have no idea exactly how much we'll get," said Michael Jacoby, assistant superintendent of finance for Geneva schools.

Voters in Dundee Unit District 300 will be asked to support a $74.5 million construction referendum on March 17. …