Urbana school board mulls building projects

Urbana school board mulls building projects

URBANA — Urbana school board President John Dimit says the board has an apparent consensus on three of the district’s next four facility improvement projects.

And board members could make a decision on the fourth project as soon as two weeks from now.

The district is looking at projects in several buildings totaling more than $27 million, but the school board is committed to completing those projects on a pay-as-you-go basis rather than asking district residents to pay higher property-tax bills to fund them.

Dimit said at Monday’s school board meeting that board members are in general agreement on three projects:

— Completing the renovation of Prairie Elementary School. Remaining work includes replacing the roof, building partition walls and adding central air conditioning to the entire building.

— Converting the student drop-off area at Thomas Paine Elementary School to serve separate bus and car traffic.

“Thomas Paine is the only one of our elementary schools that does not have separate access points for parents and buses,” Dimit said.

Superintendent Don Owen noted that traffic outside Thomas Paine often comes to a standstill while buses are loading or unloading students because the parents can’t proceed until the buses have completed their work.

“This is the item we should accelerate,” said school board member Paul Poulosky.

— Replacing the kitchen at Urbana High School, including upgrading the serving area, making the kitchen more energy efficient and converting the food setup into one that would be more attractive for the students.

The biggest decision facing the school board in the coming weeks will be which of three elementary schools to upgrade next.

On the table are improvements to Yankee Ridge, Thomas Paine and Wiley elementary schools. Dimit said each of those projects are expected to cost in the neighborhood of $7 million.

The board has agreed to proceed with one school at a time as money becomes available. The district is using proceeds from Urbana’s share of the county’s sales tax for school facilities, life-safety money and working-cash funds to pay for the various projects.

Dimit said the school board plans to at least begin the discussion of which elementary school to work on next at its June 17 meeting.

In any event, Dimit said he would anticipate the next phase of building improvement work to get underway in the summer of 2015.

In other business, the school board voted 7-0 to award a bid to Aramark to provide food service for the district for the 2014-15 school year. Chief Financial Officer Carol Baker said the estimated cost to the district will be $1.5 million.

While eight different companies were sent bid packets, Aramark was the only company to submit a bid.

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