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RANTOUL — The Rantoul Tomorrow Partnership, comprised of the village of Rantoul, Rantoul Township High School District 193 and Rantoul City Schools District 137, will update the community on activities since the last group meeting in April 2016.
The partnership began its work in mid-2015 with multiple meetings of staff and elected officials from all three board groups, with the common goal of improving Rantoul’s future. It was recognized at that time that the way forward for the community was to work on retail and commercial growth in conjunction with the improvement of the schools’ reputations, with additional work on community issues such as employment, transportation, housing and infrastructure.
In a series of public community meetings, leadership of the three partners worked together to arrive at a strategic focus for the entire village. Through this process, the community indicated its priorities as neighborhoods, schools and economic growth, and the members of the partnership presented a list of items they promised to accomplish.
Here is a short list of progress highlights since last April:
• Neighborhoods: The village reorganized staff to form a new Neighborhood Services Department.
Village Administrator Jeff Fiegenschuh said: “The goal is to support neighborhood improvement, including more engagement from village staff in community development. There will be a continued emphasis on good customer service for the village staff.”
• Schools: Rantoul Township High School Superintendent Scott Amerio said: “The guidance counselors have developed career pathway maps that will help guide students through their coursework at the high school and identify the types of post-secondary courses/training they will need based on their interests. The staff at the high school has continued their work towards a standards-based grading model and has applied to be one of the 12 schools in the state to pilot a competency-based approach in our classrooms. I commend the staff and teachers for continuing to be innovative to support our students in their education and career exploration.”
Rantoul City Schools have remodeled and improved several facilities, including locker rooms and a new Innovation Center at Eater Junior High, which includes state-of-the-art technology. Also, several programs are being put in place to support the elementary schools and families starting this summer, including Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring, preschool for boys from DREAAM House and afterschool and summer programming from Tap-In Leadership Academy.
Said RCS Superintendent Michelle Ramage: “We need community volunteers to come around our students and families to help support them in their daily challenges and also to improve academic performance. These non-profit partners will help provide those opportunities in a structured, results-oriented way, and we are pleased to welcome them to Rantoul.”
• Economic growth: Village funding for four downtown façade improvement projects totaled $9,700 in this fiscal year, and $15,000 was invested from TIF funds. Next year’s village budget will have $20,000 in funding allocated to continue to improve the aesthetics of the downtown area.
The microloan program continues to expand, with more dollars allocated by the village and more borrowers starting and expanding businesses in Rantoul.
“Retail recruitment for both the I-57 area and downtown is ongoing in cooperation with property owners,” Rebecca Motley, village economic development director, said.
Additionally, the partners are working to cooperate in communicating with community residents, through increased social media presence, publishing detailed monthly staff reports and more print and television media coverage.
The public is invited to attend a showcase of accomplishments and goals for the partnership’s future Monday, March 6.
There will be two identical presentations, followed by information provided in an open house format, at 10 a.m.-noon and 5-7 p.m., at Eater Jr. High School’s new Innovation Center 400 E. Wabash Avenue.
Opportunities to volunteer for the various programs will also be highlighted.