The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
District Facilities Information
The following information is an effort to present an update to members of the La Harpe Community School District regarding potential renovation and construction of school district facilities.
The overall goal of our school district facilities program is to provide a safe and secure learning environment for our students; one that will support an academic curriculum and programs that are required for student success in Illinois' 21st century public schools.
Given Illinois' current economic environment it is important to review why a school district is investigating an extensive school facilities program.
A significant aspect of this consideration is associated with the States rejuvenated Capital Development Project.
Bonds have been sold by the State and a portion of those bonds are to be used in the Illinois School Construction Grant Program (ISCGP). Additional school construction bond sales are also planned by the State. General information regarding this program can be found on the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) website at: http://isbe.net/construction/Default.htm.
La Harpe CSD #347 submitted an application for the ISCGP in March of 2004 (then La Harpe CUSD #335), and we are on the list of applicants for Funding Year (FY) 2005.
The ISBE is working through applications and preparing grant entitlements for FY 2004, and we believe they will soon begin work on FY2005. Also, the most recent overview of our application by the ISBE indicates that we have a grant index of 0.7445.
The grant index indicates the portion of a building project that the ISCGP would fund; leaving the school district's portion of a project at slightly over 25%. The Capital Projects funding is basically a one time opportunity. If a school district on a funding year list is not prepared to utilize the funds available it is not held until they are ready, instead it is provided to the next district on the list.
Therefore, while it is not necessarily the most opportune time for entering into a school facilities upgrade program, it is one that may present itself very soon in the form of a grant entitlement, and probably not return for many years.
An aging infrastructure is the focus of the facilities program; including the 1928 building, cafeteria/kitchen, old band shack, central office, bus garage, 1958 high school building/gymnasium, and a portion of the Johnson Vocational Building.
As indicated earlier safety and security for students is a point of emphasis, and these facilities as they currently operate are disconnected and make it difficult to provide for that type of environment. Also, the energy efficiency and maintenance of the facilities is becoming more difficult to manage.
The facilities program is necessary as part of an overall strategic plan to position the school district to operate as we move into the second decade of the 21st century and beyond. Construction bonds for the 1997 addition were paid off in fiscal year 2009 and the final payment on the Health/Life Safety (HLS) bonds for the gymnasium roof replacement will be made in December of 2010 (fiscal year 2011).
Depending upon the extent of a facilities project, the district would have enough bonding capacity to fund its portion of the grant entitlement, and maintain a tax rate similar to that of the previous school construction project.
One source of funding for the districts share of a project is HLS bonds. This type of funding would be utilized for renovation of the 1958 building and portions of the Johnson Building. Replacement of existing heating, ventilation, air conditioning, window replacement, electrical and lighting upgrades, roof replacement, ceiling replacement, gym floor replacement, restructuring rooms, addition of sprinkler systems to all building areas, and removal of asbestos are items that can be addressed with the use of HLS financing.
HLS funding is available for use with facilities, and cannot be used for other areas of the school program, e.g. curriculum or transportation.
A new kitchen/cafeteria and large multipurpose room would provide not only an upgrade for our students and staff, but would also serve as an area to be used by members of the local school community. Other small disconnected outlying buildings can be replaced with Pre-kindergarten and office space that is located under the same structure, connecting the main building to the Johnson building. Elementary classrooms displaced by closing the 1928 building would also be included in a new structure.
Difficulties with congestion associated with school buses, and parent drop off and pick up of students would also be addressed, along with the development of a safe and secure playground area. A facilities program could be implemented in stages; one that involves the use of HLS bonds and a second that utilizes the State's capital projects school construction grant funds.
Overall student enrollment in Hancock and Henderson counties has declined for several years. In Hancock County the projected overall decline from 2004 to 2013 is projected at approximately 25%. At LCSD #347 the pre-kindergarten through eighth grade enrollment declined from 342 students in 2004, to 247 students in school year 2010.
However the percentage of decline in enrollment was significantly less this past school year, and our belief is that student enrollment will continue to stabilize over the next few years.
As of this writing numerous options have been investigated and information has been gathered for use in the decision making process.
No decision has been made though, regarding the final facilities program that will be implemented. But, time is becoming a very important consideration and as the ISBE moves closer to issuing grant entitlements for districts on the FY05 list of applicants the need for a facilities plan that is ready to submit to the ISBE also increases.
The opportunity presented by the School Construction Grant program is one that will provide an elementary school facility that should enhance the image of the entire school community and secure a high quality learning environment at La Harpe CSD #347 for many years into the future.