Board begins round two of decision on junior high

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AMBOY – When voters said no to a referendum to fund construction of a new Amboy Junior High addition in March, one big question remained: Now what? 

To help the District 272 Board of Education answer that question, they invited Michelle James of CTS to offer some ideas at their May 24 regular board meeting. 

James, whose company worked with the district in planning the proposed junior high addition, gave three possibilities for the school board to consider: renovation of the existing junior high building, construction of a free-standing junior high building, and adjustments to the original plan for construction of a new addition adjacent to Amboy High School. 

Renovation of the old building: The $9,300,000-$9,700,000 cost to renovate the old school building is unchanged from last year. The recommended upgrades would include lighting, electrical (upgrade capacity to accommodate air conditioning, rewiring and installation of eight electrical distribution panels), HVAC, temperature controls, windows/exterior doors, plumbing, main entryway with secured entrance, interior doors, lockers, gym (flooring), asbestos abatement (floor tile, pipes, ceiling, walls), media center/maker space, kitchen (new HVAC, evaporator/condenser for walk-in refrigerator, dishwasher), sidewalk/paving, and tuck pointing.

Most of the renovations would have to be done during the school year while students are present in the building. James said an alternative would be to purchase modular classrooms to use during the renovation but that would be an additional expense and would require plumbing and electrical. 

Free-standing building: Construction of a new free-standing building located near the existing building would cost $17,900,000-$19,800,000. The building would be 58,000-62,000 square feet with 20 classrooms (800-850 square feet), up to two science classrooms, art room, media center with STEM lab, band room, kitchen, cafeteria, gym, locker rooms, lockers, secured entryway, offices (main office, principal’s, nurse’s, etc.), restrooms, site work, landscaping, circle drop off area/sidewalks, parking area and track/football field. 

James said this price does not include the cost of demolishing the old building (around $750,000-$800,000). 

Addition: If the same plans for an addition at Amboy High School are used, the $15,800,000 price tag for construction remain nearly the same as last year. James said material costs have increased about 4-8 percent, but the labor cost is the same. Since the estimate given by CTS included a 5 percent contingency to account for potential cost increases, the dollar amount would be unchanged. 

To lower the cost of the addition, James suggested a few possible examples for tweaking the original plans such as using the high school’s kitchen for both buildings and not having a new kitchen in the junior high addition and also not building a new media center for the high school. She said the principal’s and the district offices could all be moved near the new front entrance and the space currently occupied by the offices could be converted to the high school media center. 

Board president Nicole Jones said she felt it was important for the district to not request the same amount of money as they did in March. 

“We cannot go back to the ballot in November and ask for the same amount,” she commented. “We may have to dip into our reserves . . . I don’t know what the numbers are yet but we can’t go back with the same design plan, we need to tweak it.”

Special meeting: To further discuss alternatives and plans moving forward, CTS will attend a special meeting at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 26 at AHS. The meeting will be open to the public, as are all regular board of education meetings. 

Prior to the open meeting, CTS will meet with District 272 teachers and staff so they can offer their suggestions. 

SCHOOL SAFETY

In light of the shooting at Dixon High School this month, the question of active shooter training for Amboy students was raised. Amboy parent Allison Fox, who is a teacher at Dixon High School, told the board noting that for a number of years, Dixon students have received training for such an occurrence, which she felt was very helpful during the recent incident. 

“It was still scary but I didn’t feel like I was unprepared and I didn’t feel like my kids were unprepared - they knew what was expected of them,” she said. 

In the training, students were instructed that in an evacuation they had to stay together and could not just go home with their parent. First, they had to be accounted for by the school. 

“It wasn’t just me saying they had to stay, the training had emphasized that,” she said.

Although they were fortunate no one was seriously injured in Dixon, Fox said these days it is important to be prepared. 

“I know some people don’t like the thought of exposing our kids to that kind of stuff but at the same time, they all know what happened to some extent,” she noted. “I had little kids ask me about it and my son who is in kindergarten knows about it.”

Fox said in some districts such as Amboy, the teachers receive training but not students, so in an emergency the teacher has to tell them what to do. But she questioned that philosophy since everyone reacts to stress differently. 

“I heard that a couple of teachers at Dixon froze up,” she explained. “Kids could be left not knowing what to do. This was high school, so the students stepped in and made sure they went where they were supposed to in this situation.” 

Responding to Fox’s question, Superintendent Jeff Thake said the district is in “full evaluation mode” with their crisis plan. He noted that previously, they were advised by law enforcement that the state-mandated training for shooter drills must be conducted with staff, but not necessarily students. 

“We have a part time school resource officer, who could go into classrooms and talk to kids about school safety,” Thake said. “When something happens in Dixon, it has adverse effects on Amboy and vice versa. Everything is in full evaluation mode right now.”  

PRINCIPALS’ REPORTS

Principal Joshua Nichols, Amboy High School, congratulated the May Student of the Month Mason Costner.

Curriculum and School Improvement

● The Building Leadership and Clippers, Set Sail! teams met on May 1 and May 15. 

● School Improvement day was held April 9. Teachers and paraprofessionals worked with their personalized learning and department peers and on implementing tech and curriculum in their classrooms.

● On April 27, Janet Crownhart, Amelia Hemmen, and Elizabeth Zinke attended a Social Emotional Learning Summit at SVCC.

● Nichols and Mr. Wissinger administered the AP English Lit and Comp test on May 9 and the U.S. History test on May 11.

● Nichols attended a Threat Assessment Training on May 10 in Rockford.

● Final exams were held on May 17 for seniors and May 23, 24 and 25 for other grades.

School Activities

● The FFA Banquet was held April 29.

● On May 8, La Fiesta catered lunch for teacher appreciation.

● On May 11, Justin Hart and Rayven Wheling were honored at the IPA Leadership Luncheon.

Principal Joyce Schamberger, Amboy Junior High and Central Elementary, congratulated track athletes who advanced to the state meet in Peoria this month. They include Jordon Hohstatter, Chanlor Pohl, Elly Jones, Zoey Bulfer, Tyrah Vaessen, Lauren Althaus, Kelton Schwamberger, Ryan Dickinson, Charlie Dickinson and Quin Leffelman.

AJHS students’ reward incentive trips to Woodhaven Lakes took place May 22 for grades 7/8 and May 24 for grades 5/6. All junior high students earned this reward.

Central School’s end of year PBIS celebration featured ice cream sundaes with toppings provided by Sensient Flavors.

School Activities

● AJHS Annual All-School Goofy Games were held May 23.

● The Annual Track and Field day was May 24. Chris Payne, PE teacher, planned all games and activities and the 7th grade Junior Beta Club members also helped out.

● Parents were invited to an all school Awards Assembly at AJHS on May 25. Central School’s Awards Assembly was May 23.

● 5th Grade Orientation took place May 9. Students who attended received a free homework pass good for next school year.

● Schamberger congratulated 8th graders Andruw Jones and Ian Eller, who were chosen to attend the Student Leadership Recognition Brunch sponsored by the Illinois Principals Association on May 11 in Dixon.

OPEN FORUM

Seven AHS students in Mr. Browne’s STEM class presented their projects, which include an egg drop in oobleck, pitching a baseball, hydroponic system, Arduino frequency, wind tunnel, bottle launcher and a homemade rocket. Following the presentations, everyone was invited to go outside and watch a demonstration of the bottle launcher in action and a launch of the rocket.

OTHER BUSINESS

The board accepted the proposal of Medical Fitness Services, Inc. of Sublette for provision of Drug & Alcohol Testing Services for the 2018-19 school year. 

They also approved the 2018-19 fee schedule and the Prevailing Wage.

PERSONNEL

Following closed session, the board approved a one-year contract for Andrew Full as K-8 Assistant Principal, effective July 1 to June 30, 2019. They hired Adam Surufka as social studies teacher at Amboy Junior High, Avery Kerley as band and chorus teacher at Amboy Junior High, and Benjamin Schott as physical education/technology teacher at Amboy Junior High, all positions for the 2018-19 school year.

In addition, they accepted the retirement resignation of Eileen Quest as technology assistant, effective June 29.

The next regular meeting will take place at 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 14 at Amboy High School.