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D-156 weighs priorities while April referendum approaches

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

McHENRY – School District 156 is facing serious inadequacies in educational technology and school safety, administrators warned at Tuesday’s school board meeting.

The board spent most of the meeting discussing the district’s limited technology infrastructure and building security issues, two districtwide priorities that are tied to April’s referendum.

“The reality around this is what happens when we don’t have the financial resources in April?” Superintendent Gina Swinney asked the board. “What’s our plan B?”

On April 9, voters will be asked whether the McHenry-based high school district should keep $2.2 million in interest savings it gained from refinancing $29 million in bonds.

If voters approve the measure, district officials plan to use $1.9 million to upgrade technology and put $300,000 toward campus security. If voters reject the referendum, the interest savings would go to homeowners as a slight reduction in their property tax bills, estimated at $14 a year for a $200,000 house.

Since last year District 156 has been working on a plan to address its timeworn school technology, which runs on a “weakened foundation.”

“Teachers and students are not able to teach or learn using available resources due to technology limitations,” the district said in a December newsletter. “If we were to make the analogy to the condition of a home, we could say the technology in District 156 has a weakened foundation. The structure, from top to bottom, needs repair.”

Administrators concluded the district’s first technology priority is a “wireless infrastructure with increased bandwidth,” Swinney said.

“That’s the non-negotiable. That’s what we have to have,” she said.

Safety also stands as a pressing issue, especially after the school shootings in Newtown, Conn.

During the winter break, administrators met with the McHenry Police Department to review school security and identify weaknesses.

An entrance buzzer and surveillance system for McHenry High School West Campus emerged as a priority.

West Campus principal Michael Roberts said the need for a buzzer system “supersedes technology.”

“[The district] is negligent in that regard,” Roberts said.

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