By Stephanie Malench
The Collinsville School Board held a special meeting on June 14 to continue its discussion on the various ways the district can spend the ESSER II pandemic funds totaling $14.76 million being given to local forms of government including school districts.
Governor JB Pritzker is set to release the grant by July 1, and all work must be completed and will be fully paid out by June 30, 2024. Funds are to be divided into two categories, with 20% going to academics, curriculum, technology and/or supplemental programs and 80% “to prepare, prevent and respond to COVID-19 (air quality improvements and larger spaces)”.
Because of the strict guidelines that go with the funding, Superintendent Dr. Brad Skertich recommended to the school board that it is in the best interest of the district to seek out and utilize a Construction Manager to ensure all ESSER III timelines are met to receive quarterly expense reimbursements. Skertich’s specific recommendation is for a Construction Manager At-Risk that is allowed to perform work, saving money as they are already on site, does not have to mobilize and does not require a General Contractor.
The following are factors the board has to consider regarding what kind of project(s) to spend the money on: greatest facility needs; ESSER Funds are a one-time event; be able to maintain acceptable fund balances throughout the project since it is paid for as reimbursements; use for air quality and a space to prepare, prevent and respond to COVID-19; seek and select a construction manager to navigate the timely and appropriate use of ESSER Funds, create a directive on how the funds will be used by June 30.
The rest of 2021 will be used for the design phase with bids being accepted in February/March of 2022. Construction will begin no later than May/June of 2022 to be completed by the June 30 2024 deadline.
Option 1 for spending the ESSER III Funds involves spending $8.1 million to replace the HVAC systems throughout the district and constructing additional space at Dorris Intermediate School for classrooms, instruction and bathrooms for $3.7 million. This would allow money that had previously been allocated for the HVAC upgrades in the 3- to 5-year plan for CHS, Dorris, and Webster to be utilized in other areas and eliminating overcrowded classrooms, bathrooms and the use of alternate/combined settings.
Option 2 the district is looking at is replacing Caseyville Elementary School, which was built in 1935 with multiple additions. The current building is 39,000 square feet, but the current building is not efficiently designed, has parking and bus congestion issues, and is in need of pre-kindergarten classrooms for the growing population.
The Caseyville library, located next door, is also looking for a new building, so an intergovernmental agreement sharing the land would allow for a 44,000-49,000 square foot one story building with the library on site with a secure entrance for hours when it is open to the public.
The new school would be located behind the current school is located and would cost between $13 million and $16 million.
The additional community partnership with the library will allow continued access to library resources, special events, and additional support staff (tutors, social workers, and bi-lingual staff).
Options that were originally discussed but ruled out due to more cons than pros included building another addition onto the school and building an extension onto Kreitner School, as some Fairmont City students attend Caseyville School.
Because of a legislative exception by the State of Illinois, it will most likely be possible for the addition to Dorris Intermediate School and the new Caseyville School to be completed in addition to the HVAC upgrades throughout the district.
Skertich said that this is a “once in a lifetime opportunity to receive free money to make substantial improvements to the district’s buildings as part of the Capital Improvement Plan laid out by the district”.
The school board will continue holding discussions in their monthly meetings with special meetings as needed, including public hearings to keep the community informed.
The next school board meeting will be held at the Annex 123 West Clay St. on June 21 at 6:30 pm and is open to the public.