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By MATT DANIELS
Rantoul Press assistant editor
Three construction projects at Rantoul Township High School will proceed after the RTHS board accepted bids for the projects at its April 9 meeting.
The board approved a bid of $1,692,937 from Barber and DeAtley, Urbana, for the construction costs of the geothermal project that is expected to be ready by the start of the 2012-13 school year.
RTHS Superintendent Scott Amerio said the anticipated construction costs for the project were budgeted at $1.869 million before the bid from Barber and DeAtley came in. Amerio said with the bid, the total project cost — initially estimated at $2.58 million — would be around $2.2 million.
The project is being paid for through bond revenue money and grants, and the board passed the contract by a vote of 5-1, with board member Janet Reale voting “no.” Board member Merle Wilson, who has voted “no” on matters involving the geothermal project, was absent from the meeting.
The board voted 6-0 to approve a bid of $64,341 from Bowsher Roofing, Springfield, to replace the roof at Eagle Academy, which will be paid through bond revenue. Amerio said the bid was about $2,000 more than what the district anticipated.
The board voted 6-0 to approve a bid of $113,820 to Otto Baum, Morton, for the masonry restoration project that will focus on tuckpointing in the main gymnasium, the east wing, the agriculture building and the industrial technology building.
Money for the project is being paid through bond revenue.
The bid also covers waterproofing for the east wing, the gymnasium and the industrial technology building. The district also considered a bid of $72,480 from Evans Mason, Springfield, to just do the tuckpointing and no waterproofing, but decided to proceed with waterproofing as well.
“I think doing waterproofing is going to cost us some money now,” Amerio said, “but it’ll save us some money in the long run.”
Asbestos work: The district voted 6-0 to accept the contract of DEM Services, Addison, for asbestos work needed in conjunction with the geothermal project, at a cost of $59,600.
“The main part is they have to get in the crawl space and take out a bunch of fittings that have asbestos,” Amerio said. “On some of the risers that come through, they need to do some work there as well.”
Amerio said the project would be done in two phases, with the crawl space work starting in mid-May while school is still in session. He anticipates that work to be done by the final day of school.
“We’ll have to post and send notices out to teachers, students, parents and everybody saying that we’re going to be doing some asbestos abatement in the crawl space while people are in the building,” Amerio said, “but there’s no danger to anybody.”
Once school is out of session, the asbestos work will move to other areas of the school that need it. Board member Marla Deem asked if that included some of the boiler room areas.
“That includes everything they’re doing in the boiler room, which is mainly taking some pipe out,” Amerio said. “They’re not touching the boiler. We’re not going to be gaining any space in there because that thing will be staying.”
Financial update: The state owes the district $294,420.58 in mandated payments, but RTHS did receive $56,738 from the 1 percent sales tax increase Champaign County passed recently.
Amerio explained the process of how the district receives its money from the county sales tax increase. The $56,738 is actually the amount generated from December 2011. The money was collected in January before the Illinois Department of Revenue distributed it in March before the Regional Office of Education distributed it to the district in April.
Amerio said the district will have to look at the transportation budget because the district purchased two buses this year, but had budgeted for only one.
The cost of the two buses is $110,983, and the district had originally budgeted $60,000.
“We’ll have to adjust that, (but) we’ll be fine,” Amerio said. “We have a pretty good balance on hand for that in the transportation fund. It’ll just look funny because we’ll spend more this year than we took in in revenue. We have the balance to cover that.”
Amerio said he is “fairly confident” the district will receive its money from the state.
“Last year, we were behind a lot, too, and they eventually get all that money to us, but in the meantime, it’s still kind of a headache to budget,” he said. “You try to budget for worst-case scenario that you’re not going to get that money and what that would do to some of our funds. We’re taking a look at those things and what we would need to do if we don’t get those funds, but we are fairly confident from what we’re hearing that those will come in.”
New math, reading positions created: The board approved 6-0 to add a full-time reading teacher and a part-time math teacher as additional staff positions for next year. Amerio said the positions would cost about $75,000, and would be paid for from Title I funds. Amerio said the district received $300,000 in Title I funds last year.
“These positions would be contingent on getting that grant,” Amerio said. “It’s a federal grant, so those are relatively much safer than the state grants.”
Amerio said the reason why the district can use Title I funds for the positions is the funds have to be used for students who are struggling in math and reading. Amerio said the school has many students who fit that description.
“In order to help these students,” Amerio said, “we need very intensive services.”
Amerio said the new reading and math classes created by the new positions would be supplementary to the regular math and English classes students would take.
“When you start doing these type of services, you need the staff there to do them,” Amerio said. “That’s the rationale behind it. We want to continue to see the improvement we saw last year in our test scores. We feel that having these positions are necessary in order to do that.”
Board President Kelly Foster asked if the school already had teachers in place who could fulfill these roles.
Principal Todd Wilson said the school does in the math courses, but not in the reading courses.
“In reading, we need someone with a reading certificate to do a better job than what we’ve been doing,” he said. “We feel that ... to take this class to the next level and do it the right way, we need someone in there with a reading certificate to teach those reading strategies the way they’re supposed to be taught. Without overloading a whole bunch of people, there’s nobody on staff that can do it. That’s the reason for the additional positions because the classes have grown.”
Wilson said one reading class was implemented a few years ago that is now up to six sections.
Foster asked what would happen to the teachers who are teaching the additional classes now, and Wilson said they would go back to teaching their original classes.
Making an IMPACT: IMPACT, a truancy reduction program aimed at RTHS students, has had a “relatively successful year,” Regina Crider, program director, said when she updated the board on the program.
Crider said the program has 10 students enrolled.
“I feel like we’ve made some progress, but not as much as I would have wanted,” she said. “I believe we’ve made a significant impact in increasing attendance of the students who were having major attendance issues. However, we did not make as much an impact as we would have liked to have in regards to academics.”
She said that is more of a logistical issue than the program not being able to handle that aspect.
“I’m hoping that’s something we can better navigate next year in order to be more support for the student,” Crider said. “Another area that we kind of struggled in as well is once we started to get the students to come to school, they would maybe have some behavior issues and then get suspended from school.”
Crider said students in the program sometimes received 10-day suspensions, but even though they were suspended, the program encouraged them to return to school once the suspension was complete.
“We would really work on keeping that contact and relationship with them,” she said. “They’re some of the more difficult kids to engage.”
The program features an intensive check-in network in which staff communicates with the student between 8-11 each night to make sure they will attend school the next day. The program deals predominantly with freshmen or sophomores.
Crider said she wanted the program to find out if the student’s behavior and inconsistent attendance is due to problems at school or problems with a student’s home life.
“We’re determining that a lot of these factors are out of the control of teachers (and) administrators,” Crider said. “These are things that students are pretty much dealing with, but no one has been able to identify as an issue. What we plan to do for next year is to hopefully have them screened earlier than what we were able to this year, so that we can curtail their plan for them and make it more individualized.”
Crider said IMPACT works with ACCESS Initiative of Champaign County on the screenings, which focuses on a strengths-and-difficulties questionnaire along with a developmental asset screen.
“It starts screening for mental health issues a student may have,” Crider said. “It doesn’t give them a diagnosis. It just says there could potentially be something going on.”
Crider said mental health plays a major role in the students who have truancy issues.
“What I found very surprising is we have a lot of youth who suffer from anxiety,” she said. “It looks like ADD, ADHA (or) oppositional behavior, but what we’re finding from some of the screenings that we’re doing is that the youth are really suffering from anxiety issues of being at school. Some of our youth have had incarceration issues, so coming back to this environment is challenging for them.”
FFA going to Washington: The FFA leadership team at RTHS will get a chance to attend a conference in Washington, D.C., this summer after the board approved it 6-0.
“The kids are mixed up and partnered up with people from other states, and they’re forced to get out of their comfort zone and become true leaders,” said Roman Fox, the FFA advisor at RTHS.
Fox said the conference is the second part of a leadership conference the RTHS FFA already attends in Chicago.