Projects Proceed, Likely with No State Help
Byline: Marvin Edwards
Most of the school construction news of late has centered on debate in Springfield about eligibility rules for state matching funds for local district building programs.
Under the General Assembly's recent education reform package, nearly $1.1 billion will be set aside during the next five years to help defray costs of construction projects in school systems across the state.
While there appears to be much disagreement and confusion about how it will be distributed, Elgin Area Unit District 46 residents can expect little help, if any, from the state at this time. The successful U-46 referendum that provided $172.8 million for our current building program was passed in 1994, making the district ineligible for assistance.
An outside chance for minor help is possible, depending on the outcome of the final regulations. And we continue to challenge our legislators to revisit the new legislation to install a fairness factor that we hope will benefit the construction efforts and needs of U-46.
More significant financing could be available in the future if another bond referendum is needed and successful within the next five years. But don't expect anything now.
The good news is the massive U-46 building and renovation effort that began more than three years ago is on schedule, within budget and two-thirds done. Most important, there will be enough money to complete all the projects promised.
In light of all the talk about school construction, it is probably a good time to update readers about where we are and remind them of where we are going.
Those with good memories will recall we started with a five-year plan to construct new schools and build additions at others in an effort to keep up with an enrollment growing by more than 1,000 students each year. That translated into a new high school, five new elementary schools and major expansions at four existing schools.
All other schools in the district - except for several relatively new buildings - were scheduled for remodeling and renovation. That meant new and larger gyms, new multipurpose rooms and offices, air conditioning, barrier-free access for people with disabilities, new floor and ceiling tile, extensive paint jobs and numerous repairs.
In addition, plans called for a new stadium, a central kitchen for preparing elementary-school lunches and a $14-million infusion of technology to bring all schools into the 21st century.
As indicated, we are well on our way to achieving our goals. Perhaps the most visible and certainly the largest project is behind us. …