District 12 takes next steps on facilities improvements

JOHNSBURG – District 12 is looking for the firm that will oversee the millions of dollars worth of improvements it plans on implementing over the next several years.

The district is in the process of putting together a plan on where it will house the grades currently at James C. Bush Elementary, a necessary step before final designs can be drawn up.

But to implement those plans, the district will need the money to pay for it and the construction management firm to oversee the work.

The District 12 school board authorized the district to take out the up to $41 million in bonds approved by voters in April at its meeting Tuesday.

That means the district can start shopping around and purchase the bonds when it finds what it's looking for, Superintendent Dan Johnson said, adding that the district is moving now to take advantage of low interest rates.

Johnson expects the bond buying process to be wrapped up by the middle to the end of July.

The District 12 school board also decided to go with a construction manager instead of the other options suggested by a representative from one of the two architecture firms hired by the district.

Under this option, the district would hire the construction manager and the construction manager would hire all the other contractors needed to do the work.

"The construction manager is the most transparent way to go about it and the most cost effective," Johnson said.

The board is seeking outlines of firms' qualifications and will base its decision off those.

Maintaining the district's aging facilities has eaten into the district's budget, which – on top of a capped education fund that will see its property tax revenue shrink by 11.5 percent this year – has forced the district to make cuts and layoff the equivalent of 14 full-time positions.

Nine classroom assistants joined the layoffs, though Johnson said he expects to be able to hire back most of these support staff.

The layoffs are not a budgetary issue, he said, adding that the district is running late in finalizing its assessment on student needs in classrooms, in particular how many students with individualized education programs will be in each class.

The percentage of these types of students affects whether the school is required to provide a teachers aide.

"I think it's just more due diligence and making sure we're responsible with our funds," Johnson said.

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