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To close (a school) or not?

PRINCETON — Two concerned parents have asked the Princeton Elementary School board to look for other cost-saving options rather than closing Reagan Middle School in Tiskilwa.

At this week’s board meeting, Kelly Eiken of Tiskilwa said she took her children out of private school a year ago with the intent that they would go to Reagan School, since they live across from the school. If transportation costs are the issue, as presented at earlier PES Board meetings, then the board should look at transportation itself, not at closing a school. Things to consider would be the number of pick-up times at Reagan and also a waiver system, she said.

Closing Reagan is a big concern for the community of Tiskilwa,  Eiken said, adding the school does bring people and businesses into town.

“On behalf of Tiskilwa, there are other options which need to be addressed, instead of just wanting to close Reagan,” Eiken said.

In her address to the board, parent Janel Goodale of rural Princeton said her concern with the possible closing of Reagan is that all students would be shoved into one building. If the school is closed, will the district have to buy manufactured buildings for additional classrooms? What about safety issues in those buildings? Also, if enrollment would go up again in a few years, then would the school board come to the taxpayers and want to raise taxes to build a new school building?

She has a bunch of concerns and questions, and it seems the board is willing to close Reagan right away without giving the public any information on its options, Goodale said.

After the comments, board President Judd Lusher said the board has not made a decision on Reagan and will have more information at its September meeting.

As reported earlier in the Bureau County Republican, the PES Board has discussed the possibility of closing Reagan Middle School for the past few months as a cost-savings measure. The closing of Reagan has been projected to save the district an estimated $90,000 in transportation costs, as well as other savings in custodial staff, bus fleet reduction and bus service reduction. The board has asked Superintendent Tim Smith to bring a recommendation to the board at its September meeting.

In other business at Monday’s meeting, Smith reviewed the Fiscal Year 2014 budget, which shows projected revenue of $12,728,659 and projected expenses of $14,746,177. The school district finished the 2013 fiscal year with an unaudited ending balance of $3,500,044. The district is projected to end the 2014 fiscal year with a positive balance in all funds of $1,484,526.

The board approved the tentative budget and placed it on file at the district office for review by the public. The board set a budget hearing for 6:45 p.m. Sept. 30.

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